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Muhammad Had 17-Year Army Career

The Army veteran named in connection with the Washington-area sniper attacks, achieved the highest possible marksmanship rating with the M-16 rifle during 17 years of service, but personnel records released Thursday show no affiliation with sniper or special forces units.

John Allen Muhammad, 41, who used the surname Williams during his time in the Army, received an honorable discharge when he left active duty in 1994, a senior defense official said on condition of anonymity.

He served with the Oregon National Guard in Portland for a year after leaving active duty. Before joining the regular army in 1985, he served nine years with the Louisiana National Guard at Baton Rouge.

According to records provided to The Associated Press by the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Muhammad was formally disciplined twice while serving with the Louisiana National Guard's 769th Engineer Battalion.

In the more serious of the two summary courts-martial, Muhammad was convicted in April 1983 of violating the Louisiana Code of Military Justice for striking a noncommissioned officer in the head while on duty in August 1982. He was fined $100 and sentenced to seven days confinement, although the confinement was suspended.

In an August 1982 summary court-martial, he pleaded guilty to willfully disobeying a lawful order of a noncommissioned officer by failing to appear on time for post police duty. He was fined $100 and demoted from the rank of sergeant to specialist 4.

He received training as a metal worker or machinist and as a water truck driver, but his main specialty was combat engineer. He served in an engineer unit during the 1991 Gulf War, for which he received the Southwest Asia Service Medal, the Kuwait Liberation Medal and the Saudi Arabia Liberation Medal, according to records provided by Pentagon officials and the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.

A combat engineer is trained in such things as laying or removing land mines, building obstacles such as anti-tank ditches and conducting river crossings.

Muhammad served on active duty for nine years at posts in the United States and abroad. His rank was E5, or sergeant, when he was discharged April 26, 1994.

Muhammad did not receive sniper training, but he did receive a Marksmanship Badge with expert rating — the highest of three ratings — in use of the M-16 rifle, said a senior defense official who provided some details of Muhammad's record on condition that he not be further identified. The official said available records did not make clear what year Muhammad won the expert rating or if he received it more than once.

All soldiers must qualify as an M-16 marksman once a year. To achieve his expert rating, Muhammad had to hit at least 36 of 40 stationary targets from ranges of 50 to 300 meters, officials said.

Muhammad also achieved an expert rating in hand grenade throwing, the official said.

He enlisted in the Louisiana National Guard at Baton Rouge on Aug. 21, 1978, and received basic and advanced engineer training there in 1979. He was called to active duty in October 1978 and then returned to reserve status in February 1979.

He joined the regular Army on Nov. 6, 1985, and his first assignment was at Fort Lewis, Wash., with the 15th Engineer Battalion.

In 1990, he was transferred to the 84th Engineer Co. in Germany. In 1992, he was assigned to the 13th Engineer Battalion at Fort Ord, Calif., and the following year he went back to Fort Lewis to serve with the 14th Engineer Battalion.

The portions of Muhammad's service records released Thursday do not say whether he received an honorable discharge when he left active duty. Privacy laws do not permit the government to release that information, officials said. In documents filed in Muhammad's first divorce, he said he was honorably discharged from the Army on April 25, 1994, after 15 years of service.

In addition to his combat engineer training, Muhammad completed a basic winter operations course in 1987 that teaches soldiers how to fight and survive in cold climates, and in 1988 he completed a leadership development course at Fort Lewis.

Besides the medals he received for his duty in the Persian Gulf, Muhammad also won these awards: Army Service Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Overseas Ribbon, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, and Army Achievement Medal.