A former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier is thought to have trained and equipped an armed militia-type organization in Utah.
Scott Mangels, a former Green Beret and part of the Army National Guard’s 19th Special Forces Group (SFG), allegedly worked with the Apostolic United Brethren (AUB), a Mormon fundamentalist organization based in Bluffdale, Utah, to create the so-called Priesthood Protection Team (PPT), which provided security for members of the AUB. The Salt Lake Tribune, which initially broke the story, reported the organization operated from 2011-2013.
According to Jesse Raynor, a former member and eventual president of the AUB’s elders quorum, the PPT had male AUB members who were outdoor and shooting enthusiasts. Raynor was also the PPT’s quartermaster and kept detailed documentation on equipment——which included weapons and field gear—issued to PPT members. Raynor joined the PPT in 2011 after being asked to participate by AUB leaders. The PPT met about once per week, and also conducted monthly field training exercises in the woods near Mount Pleasant, Utah, where many AUB members live.
At the time of the PPTs formation, many AUB leaders were concerned that authorities might crack down on the group’s polygamy practices and attempt to break apart the organization. Other non-AUB residents around Mount Pleasant were reportedly also becoming suspicious of the organization, and some AUB members feared reprisals from “angry mobs.” If anyone made a move against the AUB the PPT would, according to Raynor, fight back against the “invaders” and move the congregation through the woods to an AUB-ran campground near Mount Pleasant. The AUB considered moving the entire congregation into the compound in case of emergency.
Mangels allegedly first made contact with the AUB in 2011, soon after he started Next Step Tactical, later called NextStep-Prep. The former SFG Sergeant First Class made the rounds at Utah gun shows, and gave speeches to churches and other civic organizations about preparedness. The AUB’s bishop in Mount Pleasant, Jeffrey Kunz, met up with Mangels in 2011 to discuss hiring him to beef up the AUB’s preparedness initiatives.
However, while Mangels and other members of the PPT deny the unit was a militia, by 2013 congregation members felt uneasy about the armed PPT sentries deployed outside church meetings. Under pressure, LaMoine Jenson, then serving as the AUB’s president, abolished the PPT.
“We got more military than we wanted to,” said Kunz while speaking to a reporter from the Salt Lake Tribune.
During his tenure with the PPT, Mangels allegedly instructed members on shooting techniques, field craft, tactical movement, and first aid. The PPT dressed in military-style uniforms—complete with a unit patch designed by Mangels—and wore Kevlar helmets.
“It was like being in the military,” Raynor said during an interview. “We were blood brothers.”
Although many former AUB leaders downplay the PPT’s activities, it’s unclear how big the organization became before it disbanded in 2013. Raynor claims the group discussed establishing roadblocks and assembling explosives, but Mangels stated he was unaware of such plans. Whatever the group eventually became, members of the PPT went to extensive lengths to disguise the group’s existence and the identity of the group’s members.
Raynor left the AUB in 2017 with his two wives during the filming of the A&E show, “Escaping Polygamy”. Scott Mangels served in the Army from 1986–1994, and again from 2003–2011. He left the Army in 2011 as an E-7. During his time with the 19th SFG, Mangels claims he made several wartime deployments.