An Ohio National Guard member was removed from the mission in Washington, D.C., after the FBI uncovered information indicating they expressed white supremacist ideology on the internet prior to the assignment.
The individual was a soldier from the Ohio Guard’s Company C, 1st Battalion, 148th Infantry Regiment, based in the northwest part of the state. The soldier was a private first class who has been a member since May 2018, said Ohio Guard spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher in a statement.
“If true, these are egregious allegations,” the statement reads.
Officials are withholding the soldier’s name and other details of the allegation while the investigation is ongoing. The soldier will likely be removed from the Guard, said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who announced the investigation into the individual’s actions.
“While I fully support everyone’s right to free speech, Guardsmen and women are sworn to protect all of us, regardless of race, ethnic background, or religion,” DeWine said Friday afternoon. “Our Ohio National Guard members are in a position of trust and authority during times of crisis, and anyone who displays malice toward specific groups of Americans has no place.”
DeWine said Guard officials and the state’s department of public safety are now cooperating with the FBI, and the individual under investigation has been suspended from all missions.
“Following due process, it is highly likely that this individual will be permanently removed” from the Guard, said DeWine.
The governor added that he directed Ohio Guard commander Maj. Gen. John C. Harris Jr. to establish a procedure so "occurrences like this do not happen in the future.”
About 100 Ohio Guardsmen were sent to D.C. to assist federal and local police during widespread protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who prosecutors say was murdered by a Minneapolis police officer who had his knee on Floyd’s throat.
“The Ohio National Guard is a diverse and inclusive organization of nearly 17,000 men and women," the statement from Beougher reads. "Racism and prejudice has no place in our organization. Every member of the Ohio National Guard is held to a high standard of professionalism. Ohio knows and trusts its National Guard. Any threat to that public trust will not be tolerated.”
More than one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism among the military’s ranks in recent months, according to a survey of 1,630 active-duty Military Times subscribers last fall.
The 2019 survey found that 36 percent of troops who responded have seen evidence of white supremacist and racist ideologies in the military, a significant rise from the year before, when only 22 percent — about 1 in 5 — reported the same in the 2018 poll.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter whose investigations have covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.