It was literally a made-for-television moment. A former U.S. Navy chief petty officer turned cable news pundit, dressed in a fresh out-of-the-box camouflage uniform replete with body armor and magazine pouches, wearing matching camouflage helmet and gloves, and cradling an automatic rifle, stared into the camera and announced - "I am here to help this country [Ukraine] fight what is essentially a war of extermination."
With a Ukrainian flag on his left shoulder, and a U.S. flag emblazoned on his body armor, the man, Malcolm Nance, declared that, "This is an existential war, and Russia has brought it to these people and is mass murdering civilians."
A day before, Nance had tweeted a black-and-white photograph of himself, similarly clad, announcing "I'm DONE talking."
Malcolm Nance (@MalcolmNance) April 19, 2022
Nance spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy as a cryptologic technician, interpretive (CTI), specializing in the Arabic language, and has turned his career into a thing of legend, so much so that when he speaks of his journey from news desk to Ukraine, it almost sounds convincing.
"Ukraine announced that there was an international force on Feb. 27," Nance told one reporter,
"and I started looking into it on Feb. 28 " I called the Ukrainian embassy in Washington, and I said: 'Hey, I want an appointment.' They were a little slow, so I just went down there and put in my application. The guy asked if I had combat experience and I said 'Yep.' Then he looked at my application and said, 'You're on the team.'"
Just like that.
But the hype doesn't match the reality. Although he sports a combat action ribbon on the lapel of his coat jacket (when not attired in full combat regalia), Nance has never actually participated in ground combat operations, according to a serviceman who served with him. His "combat" experience was limited to providing linguistic support onboard a U.S. Navy ship off the coast of Beirut in 1983. Important work, but not combat.
Despite this resume enhancement, Nance was, according to Nance a natural for recruitment by Ukraine. In the days before the Russian invasion, Nance was in Ukraine, reporting for MSNBC.
But being Malcolm Nance, he claimed to be doing so much more. "I spent a month in Ukraine," Nance recalled, "driving around, mapping out the Russian order of battle, driving up and down the highways, and analyzing where the invasion routes would come and go. So I knew the country backward and forwards by the time of the invasion."
(It might be time to remind the reader that Nance's Navy specialism in Arabic gave him neither the training nor the experience to conduct the kind of battlefield intelligence preparation that he described.)
The Ukrainians know this. So why would they take on a 61-year old Arabic linguist whose physical presence on any battlefield would be seen as a detriment?
(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).