Months after a series of reports exposed a dozen known or suspected members of white nationalist groups in the U.S. military, officials have confirmed that four of those servicemen have separated from the armed forces, while another four have been allowed to remain in the Army.
Four others remain under investigation, officials said.
In March and April, HuffPost published two reports identifying 11 servicemen who belonged to Identity Evropa, the white nationalist group best known for helping organize the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In a separate report in May, HuffPost confirmed that the Army was investigating a 12th soldier for his alleged ties to the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi terror group that has been connected to five murders in the U.S. over the past two years.
The danger of white nationalist terror was brought into devastating focus this week after a gunman who reportedly held white nationalist views massacred 22 people in a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. The man arrested in that attack does not appear to have any connections to the U.S. military. However, the serviceman with possible connections to the Atomwaffen Division is still stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, and is among the four who the Army has determined are still fit to serve.
Scholars of extremism and law enforcement officials have long warned about the risks of white nationalists serving in the armed forces, where they can pose a risk to fellow service members and receive combat training they can use to attack civilian targets. Earlier this year, federal authorities arrested a white nationalist Coast Guard lieutenant who prosecutors said had been stockpiling firearms to kill leftists and media figures as part of a plot to establish a “white homeland.”
Military regulations forbid service members from engaging in extremist activity or committing acts of discrimination, but an alarming 2017 Military Times poll found that nearly 25 percent of service members reported encountering white nationalists within their ranks.
The revelation that at least four of the 12 white nationalists exposed in HuffPost’s reporting will be allowed to remain in the armed services raises questions about how seriously the U.S. military is disciplining its recruits and active-duty members for ties to extremist groups.
Citing privacy reasons, military officials largely declined to elaborate on why certain servicemen are no longer members of the armed forces and why others were allowed to remain.
Two Marines, Lance Cpls. Logan Piercy and Jason Laguardia, were “administratively separated” from the military in May after HuffPost exposed them as members of Identity Evropa, a Marines Corps spokesman confirmed last month.
Piercy had made deeply racist and anti-Semitic posts on private white nationalist message boards. “REMOVE KIKE,” he once wrote, using a slur for Jewish people, above a photo of Adolf Hitler.
Laguardia was a frequent commenter as well, posting photos of Identity Evropa propaganda he had placed throughout Connecticut and New York City, particularly on college campuses.
Piercy and Laguardia did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.
“There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps,” said Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, the Marine Corps spokesman.
Another Identity Evropa member, Jonathan Gould, is no longer in the military. Army spokeswoman Cathy Brown Vandermaarel confirmed that he left in April, shortly after an anonymous group of anti-fascist activists in the Pacific Northwest exposed his membership. However, she would not elaborate on the circumstances of his departure.
It appears that Gould is still active in white nationalist organizations. A photo that anti-fascist activists posted to Twitter in May showed him at the American Renaissance white supremacist conference in Tennessee.
Anti-fascist activists also spotted Gould among a group of fascists belonging to the American Identity Movement, the name Identity Evropa has now adopted, who stormed a reading by author Jonathan Metzl at a Washington, D.C., bookstore in April. (Metzl is the author of “Dying of Whiteness,” a book about racism and politics.)
Gould did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
The fourth Identity Evropa member to leave the military is 20-year-old Jay Harrison, an ROTC cadet at Montana State University. The Daily Inter Lake, a newspaper based in Kalispell, Montana, previously reported that Harrison quit the military amid the investigation into his extremist ties.
Vandermaarel said she would “not comment or disclose the circumstances concerning any investigative, administrative or disciplinary action” regarding Harrison.
A statement from an attorney, provided to the Daily Inter Lake in March, said that Harrison denied being in Identity Evropa. That attorney told HuffPost that Harrison is not his client. Harrison could not be reached for comment.
Harrison made racist and anti-Semitic comments in private Identity Evropa group chats. “I wish the holocaust had been real,” he wrote in one post. “Not one kike was ever gassed.”
Allowed To Stay In The Military
In May, HuffPost reported that Corwyn Storm Carver, an Army private first class in the 1st Armored Division stationed at El Paso’s Fort Bliss, was under investigation for his alleged role in the neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division.
The Atomwaffen Division, which idolizes the mass murderer Charles Manson and has made repeated calls for a race war, has been connected to five murders across the U.S. since 2017.
Independent journalist Nate Thayer, who obtained Atomwaffen’s private online discussion logs, first exposed Carver’s alleged ties to the group. Thayer also connected a series of social media accounts to Carver, including one that showed a photo of Carver wearing a Charles Manson T-shirt.
But Lt. Col. Rosy Poulos told HuffPost in a statement that the 1st Armored Division’s investigation concluded that Carver “does not have ties to the neo-Nazi terror group Atomwaffen Division. Pfc. Carver is currently still serving as an active duty soldier in the 1st Armored Division.”
Poulos said the 1st Armored Division would “not comment or disclose the circumstances concerning any investigative, administrative or disciplinary action” regarding Carver. Carver did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Chris Grey, chief of public affairs for the USA Criminal Investigation Command, told HuffPost in an email that “CID Special Agents conducted an investigation into this matter and provided our findings to the appropriate officials.
In Houston, another Identity Evropa member has been allowed to remain in the armed services.
Joseph Kane, who served as an Army intelligence specialist for four years before joining the Texas National Guard, often posted white nationalist content to his social media accounts. Although he has denied being a white nationalist, Kane was active in Identity Evropa’s private message groups.
“Joseph Kane is still a member of the Texas National Guard,” a spokesperson for the Texas National Guard told HuffPost. “We have taken this incident very seriously and have taken corrective action.”
Citing privacy regulations, the spokesperson wouldn’t elaborate on the nature of those corrective actions. Kane did not respond to a request for comment.
In western New York, 23-year-old Christopher Hodgman has been allowed to remain in the Army despite being caught disseminating Identity Evropa propaganda in a suburb of Rochester.
Earlier this year, police found Hodgman’s fingerprints on Identity Evropa flyers that had been placed on surfaces across the town of Brighton. Hodgman, an Army private and ROTC cadet at the University of Rochester, was charged with a series of town code violations. In May, he accepted what’s called an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal” — meaning that if he stays out of trouble with the law for six months, the citations will disappear from his record.
HuffPost’s previous reporting showed that Hodgman frequently posted on Identity Evropa’s private message server, sharing photos of the flyers he’d distributed.
Vandermaarel, the Army spokeswoman, said the investigation into Hodgman’s Identity Evropa ties is “complete,” and that Hodgman is still an ROTC cadet and a specialist in the Army Reserve. She would “not comment or disclose the circumstances concerning any investigative, administrative or disciplinary action.”
A lawyer for Hodgman declined to comment.
The Minnesota National Guard, meanwhile, has decided to allow a young recruit to remain in its ranks after he expressed regret for his ties to Identity Evropa.
Andrew James Schmidt, a 19-year-old member of Identity Evropa who had posted photos of fliers he’d placed on the University of Minnesota campus, has been allowed to remain in the Minnesota National Guard because the activity occurred before he joined the military.
Schmidt also maintained a series of online accounts using the name “Hyphenstein” and used a photo of Reinhard Heydrich, a Nazi and one of the main architects of the Holocaust, as his profile photo.
Colonel Joe Sharkey, a spokesman for the Guard, told HuffPost that after “a thorough investigation into his alleged conduct,” they determined that Schmidt “did not engage in prohibited activity during his period of service” and was thus not in violation of any regulations.
Sharkey added that Schmidt has “received counseling and training on Army policies against involvement in extremist groups and the prohibition of extremist activities,” and that Schmidt has “disavowed any continued association with any groups or participation in activities that discriminate, or condone discrimination based on Race, Religion, Sexuality or Gender.”
HuffPost couldn’t reach Schmidt for comment. An email to his father went unanswered. Schmidt told the Minnesota Star Tribune, however, that he was “embarrassed and ashamed” about his involvement in Identity Evropa.
“Those groups are really manipulative,” he told the paper. “They target young men and make them feel like they’re part of something.”
Schmidt also said he was thankful that HuffPost exposed his ties to Identity Evropa. “It peeled away some of those impressions that were put on me by that organization,” he said.
Still Under Investigation
Investigations into four other servicemen are ongoing.
Stephen Farrea, a resident of Rhode Island, is a corporal in the Selected Marine Corps Reserve and frequent participant in Identity Evropa events and propaganda campaigns.
Hollenbeck, the Marines spokesman, said Farrea’s board review was to conclude at the end of July. Farrea did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Christopher Cummins, a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel physician in the Army Reserve, is also still under investigation. Cummins bragged about posting Identity Evropa flyers in Mississippi and Tennessee, and wrote in an IE message group that he likes Tennessee because it is “conservative & Christian ― implicitly white.”
Vandermaarel said the Army “cannot comment on active investigations.”
In the Air Force, an investigation is still underway into Master Sgt. Cory Allen Reeves and Airman 1st Class (E-3) Dannion Phillips.
Stationed at Schriever Air Force Base near Colorado Springs, Reeves posted photos of himself leaving Identity Evropa flyers outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing Center and Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado.
Reeves’ lawyer, also a member of Identity Evropa, didn’t respond to a request for comment. Phillips was stationed at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey as of March and couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Air Force spokesman said the service is aware of the allegations against both Reeves and Phillips and “is looking into it.”