Weapons crackdown in Vilseck follows bloody brawl
November 21, 2006
VILSECK, Germany — A weapons crackdown after a brawl between U.S. soldiers and local Germans has forced on-post sword-and-knife seller Reinaldo Santiago to shut up shop.
German and military police are investigating the Oct. 29 brawl in Amberg involving as many as 14 2nd Cavalry (Stryker) Regiment soldiers, some allegedly armed with retractable clubs, that put three Germans in the hospital.
According to 2nd Cav soldiers, the Army responded to the incident by searching barracks and confiscating unauthorized weapons such as pocket knives, a spear, brass knuckles and the retractable clubs. Army officials have not responded to questions from Stars and Stripes about the weapons crackdown.
Santiago, who has been an Army and Air Force Exchange Service concessionaire at the Vilseck Post Exchange for four years, said Monday that he would close his store because soldiers say they are not allowed to buy his weapons.
“The first sergeants told them not to buy anything (from the store). If they are not buying, I can’t sell,” he said.
Medieval broadswords, Japanese samurai swords — including a Hattori Hanzo sword made famous by the movie “Kill Bill” — cutlasses, throwing knives, pocket knives, a large machetelike pole weapon, suits of armor, metal helmets and even a twin-bladed “Klingon weapon” from “Star Trek” still can be purchased at his store this week, at up to 75 percent off regular prices.
Santiago said all of the weapons can be bought legally off post. His shop does not carry the telescopic clubs allegedly used in the Amberg brawl but he added that they can be purchased at knife shops in Amberg and nearby Weiden.
U.S. Army Europe regulations prohibit soldiers from bringing a range of weapons on post, including: switchblade knives, club-type weapons such as blackjacks, brass knuckles and nunchaks; kama, tanto, throwing stars, tonfu, yawara, and other martial-art weapons or practice devices; machine guns; very powerful air pistols or paintball guns; stun-guns, precision slingshots; shortened shotguns or rifles; and various types of ammunition.
Swords like those sold in Santiago’s shop are listed in the regulations as “controlled items” that may be used in the manner intended but with restrictions on transport and use.
Such items may not be “carried in a concealed manner or if displayed openly, brandished, or carried in the presence of other persons in a manner likely to make reasonable persons fear for their safety,” the regulations state.
Sgt. Eugene Brown, 27, of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a member of 2nd Cav, was at the sword shop on Monday looking for a Christmas present for his father, an avid kendo player and sword collector. He decided to buy two sets of three Japanese swords and a larger, more expensive sword with a carved granite handle in the shape of a samurai for himself.
Brown said the weapons crackdown resulted in confiscation of a large number of knives from soldiers in the barracks.
“There were lots of guys complaining because a lot of people collect pocket knives,” he said.
Another soldier browsing the weapons, Spc. Lucas Mohr, 25, of Racine, Wis., said he’d just arrived in Germany, to serve with 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment out of Ansbach, and heard about the weapons crackdown from people in the sword shop.
“I’ve always wanted to own a samurai sword but I won’t get one unless I can keep it in my office,” he said.
Schweinfurt-based 101st Military Intelligence Battalion soldier Pfc. Daniel Waller, 19, of Savannah, Ga., was shopping for a cutlass to add to his collection of 20 swords that he keeps in the U.S.
Waller, an avid fencer, said he’d either ship the cutlass home immediately or store it off post to avoid breaking the weapons rules.
Santiago, who sells swords through contractors at posts all over Europe, said the crackdown at Vilseck was up to the local Army leadership.
“Each post has a different requirement or scenario. One commander might say you are old enough to kill and you are old enough to have these items as long as it is displayed on the wall,” he added.