According to a report by Stars & Stripes, the two Georgia men, Dalton Woodward and Trent East, are both members of the Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA), a neo-pagan sect. The Southern Poverty Law Center defines the organization as a hate group whose members “base their spirituality on the survival of those descended from white Europeans and the preservation of what they claim are dead or dying cultures.” The men were specifically part of the Ravensblood Kindred pagan group, which is part of the AFA.
Army officials began investigating the two men after Atlanta Antifascists published a report in May linking them to the AFA, which is described by the report as a “whites-only heathen organization with deep ties to the broader white power movement.” At the time of the report’s release, Woodward was on active duty with the Georgia National Guard in Afghanistan, while East, who is part of the Alabama National Guard, was not on duty.
A spokesperson for the Georgia National Guard has confirmed that Woodward is “no longer a member” of the guard, according to Stars & Stripes. The investigation into Woodward was completed in October.
The investigation into East is currently ongoing, although he has told the Atlanta-Journal Constitution that he received a separation notice on December 14 and has 45 days to rebuke the allegations. He has also lost his job as a jailer for the Haralson County Sheriff’s Office in Georgia due to the allegations against him.
In a statement obtained by media sources, East said that he is not a white supremacist.
“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. I’ve just never been a fan of Christianity, and so seeing a faith that was about my ethnic roots was something I could get into a little more,” he is quoted as saying. East’s Facebook profile includes many references to the AFA, such as a profile picture with the words “Asatru Folk Assembly” written across it and an occupation description that states “Folkbuilder at Asatru Folk Assembly.”
Earlier this month, news outlets revealed that Cory Reeves, a US Air Force sergeant stationed at Colorado’s Schriever Air Force Base, was on the verge of being discharged from the service for his affiliation to white nationalist group Identity Evropa. Reeves was initially linked to the group in April, according to Stripes & Stripes. He has since been demoted from master sergeant to technical sergeant as a result.
An investigation by the Huffington Post in March found seven members of the US armed forces, including two Marines, two Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, an Army physician, a member of the Texas National Guard and a member of the Air Force, to be affiliated with Identity Evropa, which helped organize the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
At the time, Daryle Jenkins, founder of the anti-racist group One People’s Project, told Sputnik that there has long existed a cozy relationship between white supremacists, US police forces and US military services.
“It’s always been a thing for white supremacists to have a military [presence] … It’s nothing new. In fact, National Alliance members - National Alliance being an old white supremacist group from back in the day - they used to encourage it,” Jenkins told Sputnik back in March, referring to a neo-Nazi, Holocaust-denying organization founded by white supremacist William Luther Pierce in 1974.
“Sadly, we still have some folks that are involved in the military, as far as I can tell, that can pose a threat in the future.”