No contest -- the one on the left. But the Missouri Army National Guard might not agree. The senior non-commissioned officer in the Guard pictured above left has been removed from his full-time state job of serving as part of a state military honor guard that pays last respects at the funerals of Missouri veterans for "neo-Nazi" activity, although he remains a member of the National Guard. He's also alleged to be a member of the National Socialist Movement.
Summary: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that 32-year-old Sergeant First Class Nathan Wooten was fired on Friday March 16th, 2012 as a result of an investigation into a variety of complaints, according to spokeswoman Maj. Tammy Spicer. She would not elaborate on the complaints, but she confirmed that SFC Wooten was still a member of the Guard pending the outcome of an investigation. Wooten's enlistment is up in May, and he could be barred from re-enlisting because the U.S. military bans participation in extremist groups and groups that actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology or causes.
However, a number of his co-workers did elaborate on SFC Wooten's activities. His chief accuser is 24-year-old Brandon Knott, who began working with SFC Wooten in 2007. Knott claims that Wooten told him that he had joined the National Socialist Movement (NSM). Knott said Wooten tried to recruit other National Guard members working in the Macon office. Both Knott and another worker who filed a complaint, Eddie Ratliff, said that in November 2008, Wooten drove his own vehicle to a Columbia, MO funeral so that afterward he could attend an NSM rally in Jefferson City and a private after-party that included the burning of books by Jewish authors. Knott also wrote in his complaint that Wooten had showed him cellphone photographs of the book burning. Knott also claimed Wooten showed him photos on a Facebook page that he said were taken in a Jewish cemetery of several people that Wooten described as friends urinating on a grave and giving the Nazi salute.
The Anti-Defamation League then got involved, discovered Wooten had created a personal profile on the NSM's New Saxon social network, and reported Wooten to the Army in 2009. The Southern Poverty Law Center also got involved, monitoring NSM-operated websites and collecting several comments posted by someone who identified himself as Nathan Wooten from Missouri.
Then, after Wooten returned from a deployment to Afghanistan in April 2011, Knott, Ratliff and a third employee in the Macon office, who asked not to be named out of fear of retaliation by "hate groups", sent complaints up the chain of command claiming Wooten fostered a racist and hostile work environment. In their statements, the co-workers reported that Wooten complained when they ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant, refused to have a person temporarily assigned to the office serve on the honor guard because he was of Mexican origin and was reluctant to present flags to the families of Black and Jewish veterans.
But some of SFC Wooten's co-workers tell a different story. James Creel, a former team member who described Wooten as a good friend, said he considered the allegations against Wooten a witch hunt. He said he believes the complaints were made because Wooten was difficult to work for. And another former co-worker, Cody Fields, said he heard Wooten discuss the National Socialist Movement, but he ignored it, saying that Wooten never pushed NSM membership on anyone.
Dissatisfied with the slow pace of the state investigation, Brandon Knott contacted State Sen. Bill Stouffer (R-Napton) in December 2011, who began applying pressure. As a result, SFC Wooten is now fired from his honor guard position, and may be denied re-enlistment in the Guard in May. As for SFC Wooten, he did not respond to telephone messages Friday, but at the National Guard armory in Macon last month, Wooten denied being involved in neo-Nazi activities and declined to discuss the issue with the Post-Dispatch. "I didn't do any of that," said Wooten. "I don't need to explain anything to you guys. It's been taken care of."
A policy in effect since 1996 had prohibited active participation in supremacist organizations, including rallying, fundraising, recruiting and organizing. But some interpreted that policy to mean that military members still could be members of hate groups and post racist comments on social network sites and in emails, the center said. The new policy, adopted in November 2009, bans all participation in extremist groups and groups that actively advocate supremacist doctrine, ideology or causes.
On Military.com, the story attracted a few comments. Most condemned SFC Wooten, but one person wrote, "they need to root out members of the Black Panthers and MS-13 to be fair".