Featured photo: A TikTok video screengrab of two men taking part in a white nationalist training organized by Christopher Woodall (screenshot)

This story was originally published by Raw Story. Story by Jordan Green.

An avowed white nationalist who openly supports Russia is a member of the U.S. Army Reserves, recently served in the North Carolina Army National Guard and worked for a local sheriff’s office as a detention officer, according to a Raw Story investigation.

Christopher Woodall, 34, of Winston-Salem, N.C., has a long history of activism in the white power movement that coincided with his service in the U.S. military and government work.

In an interview this week with Raw Story, Woodall acknowledged that he is the author of texts that promote a “white nationalist training group,” and added: “I don’t see it as an issue to have a white-friendly group of people that get together and teach each other.”

Woodall’s extremist resume, by his own account, includes involvement with the Ku Klux Klan and National Socialist Movement, the latter being a violent neo-Nazi group whose membership peaked in the mid-2000s. In 2021, Woodall indicated in text messages that he was an active member of a chapter of the chapter of American Guard — a group aligned with the Proud Boys but with more pronounced white nationalist leanings — for the western half of North Carolina. And recently, he organized what he described to online acquaintances as a “white nationalist training group.”

While enlisted in the North Carolina Army National Guard and continuing as a member of the Army Reserve, Woodall made statements in support of Russian military activity in Ukraine — siding with a country that President Joe Biden has said “poses an immediate and persistent threat to international peace and stability.” The United States is committing to billions of dollars in aid to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.

As a member of the North Carolina Army National Guard until this past April, Woodall actively trained with a unit that was on call to respond to orders from the governor to assist during hurricanes or quell riots — “to protect life and property and to preserve peace, order and public safety,” as the state Department of Public Safety explains it.

When Woodall separated from the North Carolina Army National Guard on April 18 following completion of a four-year contract, he went into the U.S. Army Reserve Control Group, also known as the “inactive ready reserve,” spokesperson Patrick Montandon said.

Montandon told Raw Story that Woodall’s status doesn’t require him to “come in for drills” and “he’s no longer assigned to a specific unit,” but is “on call if there was ever a need for additional service members to be called in for unique circumstances.”

Reached by Raw Story, Woodall disputed the National Guard’s claim that he remains a member of the reserve.

Informed of Woodall’s white supremacist activity, Montandon told Raw Story: “I will take that into account and speak with those that need to know that information.” He added, “I can’t speak on behalf of what action would be taken or not taken.”

Asked for the North Carolina National Guard’s position on white supremacist or extremist activity by its members, Montandon later provided a written statement citing a guidance from the U.S. Department of Defense that “expressly prohibits military personnel from actively advocating supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes or actively participating in such organizations.”

Guarding jail inmates

Woodall was also recently employed by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office as a detention officer at the Greensboro jail.

He was hired in September 2020 and voluntarily resigned in February 2022, according to a response from the agency to a public records request by Raw Story.

Guilford County Sheriff Danny Rogers said in a prepared statement on Wednesday that Raw Story’s reporting “was the first notice the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office had received of these allegations.”

Because the sheriff’s office could not independently confirm Woodall’s reported activities, Rogers declined to comment further about Woodall, but added: “The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office is, however, a racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse organization and condemns any type of discrimination based on those factors.”

Woodall told Raw Story he voluntarily left the sheriff’s office because he didn’t appreciate how he “was treated by leadership” and because the job was stressful. The sheriff’s office said in response to the public records request that “Mr. Woodall did not have any disciplinary actions resulting in dismissal.”

Woodall was previously suspended from the sheriff’s office for seven days in September 2021 for discipline, according to the agency. He told Raw Story that the discipline resulted from him getting into a fistfight outside of work during a road-rage incident, adding that the other individual struck him first. Woodall was charged with “misdemeanor simple affray.”

Woodall told Raw Story that the other man didn’t show up in court, and court records reviewed by Raw Story show that the district attorney dismissed the charge.

‘We are a brotherhood and a war band’

Following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the formation of a working group to root out extremism from the U.S. military.

But a recent investigation by USA Today found that more than two years later few of its recommendations have been implemented, including one that would require recruiters to screen applicants by asking about past membership in extremist groups or participation in violent acts. An audit released last week by the Inspector General for the Defense Department echoes USA Today’s reporting, including a finding that only four out of 10 recruits in a sample were asked about or responded to questions about extremist or criminal gang affiliation.

Extremist activity in the military and among veterans, which received significant scrutiny after Jan. 6, is a politically fraught topic, even researchers have reached different conclusions.

A recent report by the RAND Corporation found that support for extremist elements such as the Proud Boys, QAnon and political violence, in general, were lower among veterans than the general population, but a report by the University of Maryland’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism found that affiliation with the U.S. military is the “single strongest” predictor of violent extremism in America.

Woodall, for his part, is a frequent user of the encrypted messaging app Telegram, which is a popular among right-wing extremists, and he administered a channel that was originally set up in September 2021 for “patched” members of the North Carolina American Guard Western Division chapter.

As former officers of the chapter became inactive, Woodall repurposed the channel as a platform to recruit for his white nationalist paramilitary training group. Raw Story reviewed dozens of text and audio chats by Woodall as he interacted with about eight different users.

Members of the chat made little effort to downplay race as an organizing principle.

On Telegram, Woodall invited “like-minded folk” to attend paramilitary-style trainings to learn about firearms, tactical gear and survivalism. The only eligibility requirement, he said, was “dedication to learning and being part of a brotherhood and a tribe here in NC that will look out for one another if SHTF.” (The acronym stands for “s— hits the fan.”)

Christopher Woodall, posting under the screen name “Berserker,” invites white nationalists to a join a paramilitary training group in central North Carolina in January 2023. (Telegram screengrab)

Reached by phone, Woodall did not deny that he made the posts to the Telegram chat about recruiting for the training group. Asked by Raw Story about the purpose of the trainings, Woodall said preparation for “SHTF” was “a generalization for a societal collapse.”

One member of the chat, who went on participate in Woodall’s training camp, celebrated Robert Jay Mathews — founder of the violent white power group the Order, who was killed during a shootout with the FBI in Washington state in 1984 — as an inspiration for “future leadership to rise to the occasion and other men to follow in their footsteps.”

Woodall himself ran a TikTok channel whose bio included the acronym “WPWW,” which stands for “white pride world wide,” and made a post with the inscription “RaHoWa,” short for “racial holy war.”

Woodall told Raw Story his use of the phrase was “satire.”

A video of one of Woodall’s trainings that was initially shared on his TikTok account, shows Woodall and three other men who are dressed in tactical gear advancing in formation and firing assault rifles. In mid-March, Woodall reshared the video, which is set to an electronic dance music and heavy metal soundtrack, on Telegram.

“Here’s a video from our last session. If anyone is foggy on the nature of our activities,” he wrote at the time.

Woodall had mentioned in the chat in late January that the group had property in Reidsville, N.C. — a small city north of Greensboro — suggesting the training recorded in the video took place at that location.

There was no age restriction for the white nationalist training group. One Telegram user in Durham told Woodall that he would have trouble getting transportation to the trainings “partially because I’m young and live with my parents,” adding that he could probably make it in the summer.

Woodall replied, “Just let me know and we’ll get you plugged in with the crew.”

To another user who asked whether teenagers could attend, Woodall replied: “All family is allowed. Young and old.”

Woodall and the other participants felt comfortable talking about firearms training and various strains of white nationalist ideology under the apparent belief that the channel was closed. It was not.

“This is a private chat,” Woodall wrote in March. “No worries.”

He went on to share his qualifications: “I have 8 years experience in the Army (combat arms), and Law Enforcement. A further 2 years of private out of pocket training with various groups and instructors in CQB [close-quarters combat], Contractor courses, and defense scenarios.”

Despite Woodall’s assurance, the chat was, in fact, not private. The chat was discovered by anonymous antifascist researchers in North Carolina, who then determined Woodall’s identity. Raw Story independently confirmed Woodall’s identity by comparing his various social media accounts, and when asked, Woodall did not dispute that he was the author of the Telegram posts.

Message posted by Christopher Woodall in a Telegram channel in March 2023 (Telegram screengrab)

From January through March 2023, Woodall repeatedly solicited Telegram users to join his “white nationalist training group,” often addressing users individually. The solicitations almost invariably included the phrases “training group,” “firearms,” “brotherhood” or “tribe” — or, in one instance, “war band,” — and “SHTF.”

When Woodall first issued an invitation to join the trainings, he announced that they would take place once a month. But by March, he said he hoped to increase to twice a month as the group grew. On occasion, when access to a firing range wasn’t required, he said, they would convene at a “clubhouse” on his property in Winston-Salem, N.C., for a “home station meet.” Eventually, he said, he planned to start collecting dues.

In late March, Woodall put out a notice for a training to be conducted on private property outside of Salisbury, N.C., roughly midway between Greensboro and Charlotte, for the second Saturday in April.

The agenda, according to Woodall’s message, included “firearms fundamentals/live fire”; “team movement/CQB” — an acronym for “close quarters battle”; and “SALUTE/LACE reports,” two acronyms that respectively address assessments of opposing forces while on patrol and the capacity of one’s own force.

Then, six days before the training, Woodall abruptly announced: “Sorry guys, but I’ve officially killed the group. Sudden, I know, but I’m tired of people being fair weather warriors if that makes sense. No more training, at least not by me. We are still open to meeting everyone here and at least becoming Tribe together.”

Despite disavowing “groups” following the cancellation of the April 8 training, Woodall still aspired to gather like-minded white nationalists together in central North Carolina.

When a new member joined the chat in early June, Woodall explained, “I’ve always wanted to get everyone together for a meet and greet, but it doesn’t seem like anybody wants to take the time or effort to do so really. I’ve kept the chat open just in case, but if you’d like to try to get something together, feel free to reach out.”

To the same user, Woodall expounded, “Groups really aren’t the way to go anymore IMO. I’ve done everything from running a state for the KKK to larping [live-action role play] for the NSM. I’ve been in too many political groups to name, brother. They all end up the same. All talk, lots of drugs usually, lots of useless hot air. It’s the biggest reason that I preach tribalism these days. My buddies’ families and mine are bound and we’ll have each other’s backs if SHTF.” (Woodall’s past involvement with the Ku Klux Klan is by his own account and could not be independently verified by Raw Story.)

He added: “But since there’s been some renewed activity here, I’m going to try to orchestrate maybe a cookout at a park somewhere next month and invite everyone.”

Stephen Piggott, a researcher and program analyst at the Western States Center who focuses on white nationalist, paramilitary and anti-democracy groups, told Raw Story it’s always concerning when white nationalists move from online networking to in-person mobilizations.

“When you add firearms and routine training with firearms to the equation, the potential for violence increases dramatically,” Piggott said in an email to Raw Story. “These guys are not going to the range to practice target shooting, they are actively preparing for conflict.”

In one of the Telegram messages, Woodall wrote that “similar ideology and the importance of communicating with people that believe the same things as we do” were important principles for the trainings, and he acknowledged to Raw Story that the trainings were “for white people.”

But he repeatedly insisted the trainings were not violent or insurrectionary.

“I don’t espouse violence against anyone for any reason unless it’s self-defense,” he told Raw Story. He also said, “I don’t espouse overthrowing any government.” And: “I don’t espouse a white takeover of any country.”

Piggott told Raw Story that Woodall’s statements should be treated with skepticism.

“We can’t see into this man’s heart, but there’s little to indicate that his activities are doing anything other than preparing for violence,” Piggott said. “His social media postings of ‘no political solution’ and ‘ra-ho-wa,’ short for ‘racial holy war,’ are indicators that he ascribes to the view that for white nationalists to succeed requires a violent overthrow of the current system.”

Pro-Russian content on TikTok

While the Telegram chats focused on firearms training and food-related topics like canning and raw milk, Woodall explored a different topic in his TikTok channel: Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

One video shared on Woodall’s account promotes the view that Russia is winning the war — an assessment most U.S.-based national security analysts reject.

He also commented favorably about Russian forces fighting a battle while outnumbered on a pro-Russia TikTok account that highlights Russian military successes.

The pro-Russia TikTok account had previously complimented Woodall for a weight-lifting video he posted, writing, “Holy s— you are strong.”

“I’m trying, brother,” Woodall replied, adding a smiling face emoji.

“I do have pro-Russia standpoints,” Woodall told Raw Story.

While Woodall disputed the assertion by the National Guard that he’s still enlisted in the reserve forces, he said he doesn’t think his pro-Russia views would pose a conflict with military service, even considering the United States’ adversarial relationship with Russia and military support for Ukraine.

“It is not, because everyone is entitled to their opinion on any subject matter that they deem to be in their wheelhouse of understanding,” Woodall told Raw Story. “Even if I were still enlisted, it wouldn’t have any bearing on my serving. I’m not providing financial support to any side of the conflict. Having an opinion on who is right in the conflict is a First Amendment matter.”

Woodall’s support for Russia compounds the concerns surrounding his white nationalist activity, Piggott said.

“Right now, the military is under increased scrutiny for allowing white nationalists into its ranks because they pose a significant danger to American communities and American defense,” he said.

Heather Hagan, a spokesperson for the U.S. Army, referred questions about Woodall to the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va. The bureau, in turn, referred questions about Woodall to the North Carolina National Guard.

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