Valdosta, Georgia. In the woods south of Atlanta, a husband and wife are training with about a dozen camouflage-wearing, heavily armed Americans huffing and puffing as they scramble to navigate the sprawling piece of property where they train, one weekend a month, to ward off enemies — foreign or domestic.
The citizens are with the Georgia Security Force militia, whose members are relieved that Donald Trump won the presidency but believe it would be a mistake to lay down their arms just because he is in the White House. So they continue to take to the woods to be ready for whatever may come, whether it’s an economic crisis that spawns unrest or Islamic extremists carrying out attacks on American soil.
“I started to realize that I got very angry because the system has been so abused over and over and over again, making rights out of thin air for people who don’t deserve to get anything,” said John DeMaria, who goes by the callsign Rooster J.
Commander and head of the Georgia Security Force, Chris Hill, remains deeply skeptical of Congress and worries the lawmakers will undermine Trump’s agenda: preventing him from building a wall on the Mexico border, repealing “Obamacare” and fulfilling his promise to “Make American Great Again.”
“Even if President Trump is able to do the things that he wants to do, he’s still got Congress to contend with. Congress is the same old dog-and-pony show. All they do is fight. They’re never going to grant us more freedom,” said Hill, who goes by the callsign General Blood Agent.
America’s modern-day militias began to surge in the 1990s during the Clinton administration, then ebbed during the Bush years. Following a dramatic spike after the 2008 election of President Barack Obama, there are now an estimated 165 militia and separatist groups in the USA.
For Hill and his group, the 2008 election was their defining moment, the one that signaled that America was on the wrong track. They believed Obama wanted to restrict gun rights and forever alter their way of life.
Yvette DeMaria said she and her husband were looking for “like minds” and found the Georgia Security Force through Facebook and a pastor friend who had traveled to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with the militia to help out after fires in the Smoky Mountains devastated the region. That act of charity had moved her.
Long before Obama was elected, the DeMarias felt the country was heading down the wrong path, with the military and law enforcement no longer cherished or revered. Yvette DeMaria said she believes protesters have been allowed to get out of control after police shootings.
She laments, for example, the legalization of same sex marriage and the transgender bathroom issue, believing they amount to a war on her Christian faith. “We cannot be silent anymore. We have voices. We need to rise up. We need to speak up. We need to find like minds,” Yvette DeMaria said. “We’re going to church every Sunday, but Monday through Saturday, what are we doing?”
Down in the backwoods, they use hand signals and walkie-talkies to alert the others to where and how many enemies are lurking, They then navigate obstacles made of firehoses, logs and scraps of wood, metal and string to eliminate the threats.
They start training with “dry fire” exercises where the guns are not loaded. The last exercise of the day involves live rounds in their weapons, from AR-15s to handguns. After the targets are riddled with holes, the militia members gather around a fire at a campsite a short walk away to enjoy music and a barbecue.