For the second time this year, officials with the Missouri National Guard are investigating whether a white supremacist has been serving in their midst.
In March, officials accused a Missouri guardsman of participating in neo-Nazi activities while also serving in the military’s honor guard, which routinely helped pay last respects at funerals for veterans who fought in WWII. The sergeant was fired from the honor guard after former coworkers said he kept a picture of Adolf Hitler in his living room and tried to recruit them to the white supremacist movement.
Now, the military is investigating whether another guardsman, an Iraq War veteran, might have traveled to Florida to train a group of white supremacists who were accused earlier this month of planning to start a race war and arrested as part of a domestic terrorism probe.
“Active membership in an extremist organization is not consistent with the values of the Missouri National Guard or the Department of Defense,” guard spokeswoman Maj. Tammy Spicer said on Wednesday while confirming the military had launched an investigation into the latest case.
The newest soldier in question, Spc. Ryan Riley, shares the same name as a man who surfaced in court documents last week as part of the probe into the Florida chapter of the white supremacist group American Front.
The investigation, run by a joint terrorism task force of the FBI and local law enforcement, resulted in the arrests of the chapter’s leader, Marcus Faella, his wife, and ten other alleged American Front members. They were accused of stockpiling weapons, experimenting with the creation of the toxin ricin and plotting some sort of “disturbance” on Orlando City Hall.
Riley has not been arrested. Documents detailing the probe described him as a “patched” or recognized member of the hate group’s Missouri chapter. They also said he was as a “member of the United States National Guard.”
“Faella had Riley conduct Paramilitary training on techniques (Hand to Hand Combat, edge weapon techniques) he learned from the National Guard,” the court documents said. “Additional training was held on breaking down assault rifles, water purification and other survival skills.”
On Wednesday, Spicer, the military spokeswoman, said it was too early to say for sure whether the person mentioned in the documents is the same person still serving as a specialist in the National Guard.
“We do not have any conclusions that this would be the same person at this point,” she said.
She said the National Guard’s Riley joined the the force a year ago and that he is on a typical part-time status, serving one weekend a month and two weeks a year. He served in another branch of the military for about seven years before that, but Spicer did not know which branch it was. She said, however, he served in Korea from 2004 to 2005 and Iraq from 2006 to 2007.
Riley could not be reached for comment.
The last time the Missouri National Guard took action because of the alleged racist ties of one of its members was earlier this year after guardsmen complained about a sergeant who served a full-time role on the honor guard.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story in March. It revealed that Sgt. Nathan Wooten had been the subject of complaints by his colleagues for months over vile, racist comments he apparently made. They said Wooten claimed to be a member of the National Socialist Movement, the largest neo-Nazi organization in the nation.
“He always talked about how great of an organization it is and how they hate minorities like blacks, Mexicans and Jews and how great the U.S. would be without them,” one of his colleagues said, according to the newspaper. Wooten also reportedly kept a picture of Hitler in his living room and balked at presenting flags to the families of black and Jewish veterans.
Wooten denied the allegations to the newspaper, but just before publication of the Post-Dispatch story, he was fired from his full-time role with the honor guard.
Nick Martin is an associate editor at TPM in New York City. He came to the site in 2011 as a reporter for TPMMuckraker. Previously, he worked in Arizona, first as a staff reporter for a local newspaper and later as a freelance journalist. He also ran the news blog Heat City. Contact him: nick [at] talkingpointsmemo.com