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RIVERTON — Utah National Guard investigators were busy Thursday trying to assess whether Camp Williams resources and personnel were used in a pin-up calendar photo shoot and video shot in the state earlier in the year.
The UK-based 2015 Hot Shots Calendar promotional video on YouTube shows lightly clad and some partially nude models in Utah locations holding and firing what appear to be military-grade machine guns and riding in military vehicles including an armored personnel carrier.
Guard officials said they learned of the shoot only days ago and launched an official investigation Tuesday into the “potential unauthorized use of military equipment, facilities and personnel.”
“Productions of this kind are not in keeping with the values of the Utah National Guard nor its members,” Lt. Col. Steven Fairbourn said in a statement.
“Use of military equipment, facilities and personnel in civilian for-profit endeavors such as this requires approval of National Guard Bureau Public Affairs through the respective state National Guard Headquarters. There was no official approval for this project. The investigation will determine if Utah National Guard equipment, facilities and personnel were used in the Hot Shots 2015 calendar production and required actions if this is the case.”
Credits at the end of the promotional video also give thanks to the Big Shot Ranch in Tooele County, which is described online as a “privately held special weapons test center and corporate firearms country club.” A sign for the club is displayed in the video.
None of those weapons that I saw were military-only or military-restricted firearms. I don't know if military personnel — you know, on-duty and taxpayer paid — location or equipment were being used, I don't know. I couldn't tell you.
–Clark Aposhian, Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman
Attempts to gain further answers from the company behind the calendar were unsuccessful Thursday evening because of the time difference. But a percentage of the calendar proceeds are reportedly donated to the UK charity, Help for Heroes.
Among the questions Guard investigators may be looking to answer: Who is the owner of the heavy-duty vehicles used in the shoot, who supplied the machine guns and who are the men who look like soldiers that appear to be training the models.
The uniforms worn by the men appeared to have two patches. One said “police.” The other said “JSOC.” A web search of the term showed it stood for Joint Special Operations Command.
Fairbourn said Friday the individual with the JSOC patch was "not one of ours."
Still, the matter of Guard involvement in the production may be difficult to pin down, one firearms expert said, because many of the guns and vehicles seen in the video can be privately owned.
“None of those weapons that I saw were military-only or military-restricted firearms,” Utah Shooting Sports Council chairman Clark Aposhian said after viewing the YouTube video. “I don’t know if military personnel — you know, on-duty and taxpayer paid — location or equipment were being used, I don’t know. I couldn’t tell you.”
Aposhian said the video featured one particularly expensive weapon, a M134 Minigun, which fires 2,000 to 6,000 rounds per minute.
The gun, according to Aposhian, would cost a private investor between $300,000 and $400,000 if that buyer could find one. Aposhian said he believed there were currently only about a dozen of the guns on the market.
A 2.5 second discharge shown in the video, Aposhian said, would have racked up an expensive toll quickly in terms of spent ammunition. He estimated the ammunition used in that single video clip alone would have cost approximately $350.