Discover more from North Carolina Rabbit Hole
Uncle Sam Wants You (To Stay Away From Some DJs)
Fort Liberty has long had a list of off-base places where soldiers aren't allowed to go. That list now includes parties hosted by two DJs from Fayetteville. Why? I asked the Army. And one of the DJs.
I drove through Fayetteville back in May, and so it’s only appropriate that I saw this tweet come across the transom a day afterward:
This seems, I don’t know, sort of preposterous. But! It’s true! There’s an Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board that, from time to time, comes out with a list of places off-base where soldiers are not allowed to go. This isn’t a gentle recommendation either. Soldiers who get caught can be arrested and prosecuted by the Army. The list, as military things go, is a fairly standard thing at bases all around the world, and this particular list has been around Fort Liberty (which was called Fort Bragg until recently) for a long time. It’s mostly what you’d guess: Strip clubs, bars, head shops, and so on.
So what did these DJs do that was so bad that the Army won’t let its soldiers go to their parties? I asked one of them. He says he doesn’t know.
Drastic Drunkenness Once Called For Drastic Measures
Let’s back way up. The military has been banning certain establishments near their bases for a very long time, but occasionally it’s considered more drastic measures. Way back in 1954, Fort Bragg’s base commander suggested that all of Fayetteville should be off limits to soldiers for a brief time before and after paydays. The reason? According to the Durham Sun, some Fort Bragg soldiers with some money in their pockets showed up in downtown Fayetteville that summer, had too much to drink, and got into fights. “General Cleland further stated he knew that some of the business establishments of Fayetteville shared in the responsibility for the incidents,” stated a Fort Bragg news release from back then. “If some of those operating drinking establishments would use more discretion in selling to patrons, who obviously have had enough, the incidents involving drunkenness could be avoided.” Later, the head of the whole Third Army weighed in to say that such drastic measures wouldn’t be necessary. The Fayetteville police chief had assured him that the fights weren’t all that bad, and besides: the Army could ban soldiers from specific bars that it thought was overserving them.
About a decade later, the Army once again considered banning soldiers from downtown Fayetteville, but for a very different reason. Fayetteville State University students had joined the sit-in movement of the 1960s, and the military had their backs. According to the Fayetteville Observer:
The former student activists at FSU have said it helped their cause when Fort Bragg apparently threatened to make downtown Fayetteville off limits to its soldiers if there were places where black people were not allowed. That measure could have crippled the city's economy, which has long relied on the military post for a large chunk of its customer base.
“I don’t think we would have accomplished what we did without that participation. It wouldn’t have happened,” [Former FSU student turned Cumberland County Commissioner Jeannette] Council said. “Because that brought a spotlight of a different caliber. And it showed that this was a worthwhile movement of sorts.”
Back to the list itself. “The purpose of the off-limits list is not to limit service members and their Families, but to protect them from dangerous conditions, criminal activity and businesses that seek to take advantage of Soldiers,” the Army has stated. At some places, the reasons for the bans have been fairly straightforward. In 2009, two clubs in Fayetteville were declared off-limits to soldiers after deadly shootings. But in that same year, a convenience store named the J&J Fast Mart also made the list, because the Army said it was concerned about police calls there for drugs and prostitution. "I don't consider (the store) dangerous," the store’s owner told WRAL-TV back then. "(We've) never been robbed, even though a lot of people think it's a rough neighborhood. But it's not as bad as people think." To get off the list, the owner hired an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and installed security cameras, then appealed to the Army to be removed. It didn’t work—the store changed names but its address remains on the list to this day.
What else is on the list? At least one swimmin’ hole. A popular creek in nearby Spring Lake was added more than 15 years ago because the property owner was worried about trespassing and littering. It’s still on the list.
All unlicensed tattoo parlors are also illegal for soldiers, as are a smattering of strip clubs, bars, and head shops. The reasons all seem to be around the same: Reports of too much drinking, drugs, prostitution, and, in general, crime. “To be placed on the off limits list generally isn't a single incident occurrence. Usually, there is an established history of situations that leads to being put on the list,” a Fort Campbell base spokesman said in 2014 in response to a question from a reporter. “It doesn't require actual proven guilt or blame either. For example, the provost marshal office may have a lot of complaints about a business from soldiers. The complaints are checked out, and if it's determined by the disciplinary board that it's not in the best interest of soldiers to frequent that establishment, the board can elect to put it on the list.” It is possible to get off the list, but some institutions around Fayetteville have been off-limits to soldiers for more than a decade.
So, why are two DJs on the list?
The DJ thing, though. That’s fairly new. In February of 2022, the Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board added “promoted party events” hosted by DJ Teddi Petti to the list. That May, DJ Don Don’s parties also got the off-limits treatment. The official reasons? “High crime, illegal drugs, and alcohol beverage control violations” are on the sheet. The public affairs folks at Fort Liberty didn’t elaborate, instead referring me to the Army’s Freedom of Information Act department after repeated emails and phone calls over the last five months (A note: FOIA document requests can take a long time to work themselves out. I put in a request in August, and if I get a response that way, I’ll update you). I asked other people who might be in the know. “At that time, our crime editor and myself couldn’t find his name on crime logs for having charges,” says Rachael Riley, a reporter for the Fayetteville Observer who covers the military. “With the DJs, it may be that people have reported questionable activities at parties/venues they are at, but the DJs themselves could have been spinning records, not seeing anything.”
Redditors from Fayetteville chimed in to say that they’d heard about some wild stuff going on at those parties, but they didn’t offer up any concrete evidence. There was no one incident that stood out. No specifics.
So, I decided to call DJ Don Don himself.
He’s The DJ, I’m The Writer
First off, DJ Don Don hasn’t DJ’d anything for six years. His actual name is Donovan McGeachy. He’s 32 now, and he started off doing house parties when he was 16. Then he started working at clubs, eventually moving up to manage one. He graduated from Fayetteville State, and he now runs a number of businesses, including a tax preparation service. He also told me he owns 30 rental properties, and most recently, he bought an old Moose Lodge and turned it into an events center in Fayetteville.
He considers himself to be more of an event and concert promoter now, he says. He refers to himself as Prince Don Don, has more than 914,000 Instagram followers, and his page is full of things he’s promoting all around North Carolina. Here’s one of the bigger ones:
Say, that’s Rich Homie Quan! At the Greensboro Coliseum! There was also an afterparty thing that he did last August after the Wiz Khalifa show in Charlotte, and he says he’s put on some events for more corporate clients. The rest of his Instagram and Facebook pages include a lot of smaller parties. There are also a lot of pictures of butts. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Don Don’s pages are NSFW. Still though. So. Many. Butts.
I asked him what he wants people to know about his parties. “They’re about fun and having a good time,” he told me. And, often, twerking.
Anyway. McGeachy says, at first, he didn’t know that Fort Liberty had put him on its blacklist, and says his colleagues told him after they’d heard about it on social media. According to procedure, the local Armed Forces Disciplinary Control Board (AFDCB) is supposed to send a letter to business owners, telling them what they’re doing wrong and giving them a chance to fix it before putting them on the off-limits list. If businesses don’t change, the board meets quarterly to figure out whether to ban them or not. It’s not a perfect procedure. Michael Archer, a retired Marine Corps Judge Advocate who was serving in a civilian capacity as director of Legal Assistance for Marine Corps Installations East, gave testimony in 2011 to the Federal Trade Commission about how Control Boards operate, specifically when it comes to shady auto dealers who prey on service members:
First of all, I don't have any investigators. The military police don't go out. They have jurisdictional problems. They got other things to do. So I have to sit back passively and wait for people to make those sorts of complaints. And some of them do -- some of them don't. Many of them don't have an idea that there's even been a problem. And then, when I get the first one, well, maybe it's got a good paper trail, and maybe it doesn't, or it's just "he said/she said.” So, maybe I need a couple of more complaints before I go to the AFDCB. And then, what happens is, under the Joint Services Regulation, we get to basically send a letter warning them about how they're doing bad stuff and they should stop. And then I need to sit back passively and wait for a few more violations before I have a case. And then the board meets quarterly when they get around to it, and the business is gonna ask for delays, and they're almost always gonna get them. A report's made. And it goes to the installation commander, the busiest guy on the base. And then we declare them off-limits and then they move down the road, down Interstate 40 and go to Fort Bragg from Lejeune, or they just play the corporate shell game and change names. So, the AFDCB is a useful tool, but it's pretty limited.
McGeachy didn’t ask for any delays himself because, according to him, he didn’t know anything about being added to the list until after he was on it. “I don’t understand it,” he says. He’s also not trying to fight it. “If that was my main source of income, I would have fought harder against it,” he says. He thought about having his attorneys contact the military, but in the end, he says it hasn’t hurt his bottom line enough to be worth the time, money, and effort to get off the list. Still, though, it’s not been good for his rep around Fayetteville. “You’re not just hurting my business, you’re hurting my name,” he says.
In any event, McGeachy doesn’t live in Fayetteville anymore. In the time since we talked this summer, he moved to Charlotte and is now promoting events there. In one video, he shows up with DaBaby. Also, for what it’s worth, McGeachy says he doesn’t know Raheem Smith, who’s also on the list as DJ Teddi Petti. (I was unable to track him down myself.)
Bottom line: soldiers are no longer allowed to attend, say, the “Battle of the Twerkers” or “Naughty Gras” (which, FYI, also featured a twerking battle). But at this point, nobody’s saying exactly what specific complaints led to Don Don’s ban. “I did a party last year where I let mothers in for free,” he said. “Could have been the issue.”