National Guard Boots Out Two Guardsmen With White Nationalist Connections
|thenorthstar||Jan 10, 2020|
Two Georgia men were kicked out of the Army National Guard following several months of investigation into their ties to radical white extremism. The men, identified as Dalton Woodward and Trent East, are members of a neo-pagan sect called the Asatru Folk Assembly, a hate group according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
Woodward and East were outed as members of the controversial pagan sect by the activist group Atlanta Antifascists earlier this year. Woodward, a member of the Georgia National Guard, was on active duty in Afghanistan at the time of report. Meanwhile, Alabama National Guardsman East was not on active duty, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
In June, Woodward and his unit returned from deployment. An investigation by the Army into his connections with white supremacy group ended in October. A Georgia National Guard spokesman confirmed to The North Star that Woodward was “no longer a member” of the guard.
The Army’s investigation into East is still considered an open investigation, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. East told the newspaper that he received an official notice of his separation on December 14. The Army recommended East be given a general discharge, a designation reserved for servicemen and women who exhibit unacceptable conduct not in accordance with the military’s standards.
The Alabama National Guard told The North Star that East is still a member of the guard and remains under investigation. A spokeswoman declined to comment further on the investigation. However, a spokesman told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that East has 45 days to contest the findings and that the investigation into his ties to white nationalism will remain officially open until that day.
“Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army National Guard personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military Service,” National Guard Bureau spokesperson April Cunningham said in a statement to The North Star. “It is the policy of the United States Army and the Army National Guard to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.”
Following the report by Atlanta Antifascist, East lost his job as a jailer for the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office. East told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he does not consider himself a racist, but said he is interested in his ancestry and centuries-old ways of worship.
“The whole race thing started with me finding Asatru or Odinism or whatever you want to call it and seeing that as a better option than Christianity as a spirituality,” he told the newspaper. “I’ve just never been a fan of Christianity, so seeing a path that was about my ethnic roots was something I could get into a little more.”
Both East and Woodward attended a speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer at Auburn University in 2017. Photos show the two carrying signs promoting the “white genocide” theory that contends that non-white groups are displacing white people.
After being outed, East created an account on VK.com, a Russian social media platform that is popular with racists, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
White Nationalism in the U.S. Military
The U.S. military has been dealing with white nationalism and racist ideology within its ranks for some time. A 2018 poll of Military Times readers found that little has changed, though things appear to have worsened since 2017.
Around 22 percent of service members who participated in the fall 2018 poll said they have seen signs of white nationalism or racist ideology within the military. In 2017, 18 percent of white service members reported witnessing white nationalism in the military. That number jumps to more than 50 percent among non-white service members polled in 2018, up from 42 percent in 2017.
Respondents reported the casual use of racial slurs and anti-Semitic language, swastikas, white power tattoos and the display of the Confederate flag despite complaints.
The same poll conducted by Military Times in 2017 found that nearly one in four troops reported seeing an example of white nationalism among their fellow service members. Troops were surveyed just a month after the deadly Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Thirty percent of respondents in 2017 also labeled white nationalists a threat to national security, though some service members expressed frustration that white nationalism was labeled a problem in the first place.
“You do realize white nationalists and racists are two totally different types of people?” an anonymous Air Force staff sergeant wrote.
Senate Stops Progress
On December 17, the Republican-controlled Senate cut the phrase “white nationalist” from the National Defense Authorization Act, which was meant to address the threat of white nationalism within the military, CNN reported. The phrase was included in a House amendment passed in July to screen for white nationalist beliefs in military enlistees.
Congressman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), who introduced the House amendment, told CNN he was disappointed Senate Republicans decided to eliminate the phrase from the bill.
“I introduced my amendment because keeping this hateful ideology out of our military is crucial to our national security and to the safety of our service members,” Aguilar said. “We can’t address the problem if we won’t acknowledge there is one.”
The change in the Senate version of the bill comes on the heels of an investigation into cadets and midshipmen making a hand gesture during the pre-game show for the Army-Navy game that many said was a symbol of white nationalism. The “Okay Hand Gesture” was labeled a white power symbol by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in September.
The U.S. Military Academy at West Point announced that its investigation into the matter concluded that cadets were playing the “circle game” and “the intent was not associated with ideologies or movements that are contrary to the Army values,” the academy said in a statement. The Naval Academy came to the same conclusion.
“The investigation determined there was no racist intent by cadets,” General James C. McConville, the Chief of Staff of the Army, said in a statement. “The American people trust our soldiers to do the right things the right way. We must be mindful of behavior which brings that trust into question and ensure our actions meet the high ethical and professional standards our nation expects the American soldier to uphold.”
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.