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Engineer at Elite Army Weapons Lab Tied to Racist Groups

A young research engineer at the U.S. Army’s elite chemical and biological research laboratory in Maryland has close ties to two racist groups espousing white nationalist views, one of which has called for a homeland for white people.

John Stortstrom, a mechanical engineer who works for the Army at its Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), was among 150 white nationalists, many of them young, who attended the American Renaissance conference held in early April in Tennessee. American Renaissance is a journal dedicated to race and intelligence, with a heavy focus on the “psychopathology” of black people. Its editor has written that black people are incapable of sustaining any kind of civilization.

Stortstrom also has been a member of Youth for Western Civilization (YWC), according to his Facebook page. The far-right student group was started about five years ago, but now appears to be defunct. It was close enough to American Renaissance that the editor of that journal wrote a fundraising letter for it in 2011, describing YWC’s leader as “an eloquent and distinguished young man.”

Remarkably, Stortstrom is simultaneously vice president of the Route 40 Republican Party Club, based in Edgewood, Md., where the Army research center also is located. Earlier this month, the club sponsored an appearance at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office by Matthew Heimbach, president of the racist White Student Union at Towson University. Heimbach had earlier led a Towson chapter of YWC, but shut it down after members last year chalked “White Pride” around campus, causing an uproar among students and administrators. The WSU is its replacement.

“Good speech, Matthew,” Stortstrom wrote after the Harford County presentation, complimenting Heimbach on Route 40’s Facebook page. The page also shows a photo of Route 40 President Fred Mullis posing with Heimbach, accompanied by the Yiddish phrase, “Mazel tov!,” which means “good luck.”

Neither Stortstrom nor Mullis could be reached for comment.

There’s no question that Stortstrom is very much a part of the racist white nationalist scene, as well as an up-and-coming young GOP operative. But it is Stortstrom’s top-security clearance job at the U.S. Army research facility on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland that is really raising eyebrows.

On its website, the anti-racist organization “One People’s Project” (OPP), which was the first to point out Stortstrom’s activities, put it like this: “See, not only is he vice-president of a Republican Party club that curiously was comfortable enough with Heimbach that he was invited to speak at one of their meetings, but his job — his actual bread winning profession — is making things that explode!”

Stortstrom’s work for the military, OPP added, puts him in contact with chemical weapons and explosives. The group’s site carries a photo of Stortstrom with the caption, “Engineer. Republican. Racist. Military bomb maker.”

Don Kennedy, the public affairs officer for the Army at the ECBC Communications Office, did not return a Hatewatch telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

Strotstrom earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland in 2008, according to his LinkedIn page. Describing his job with the U.S. Army on a YouTube video, he explained, “Our job is to provide engineering and chemical expertise to customers in support of obscuration, non-lethal, riot control and incendiary munitions.” Obscuration munitions, he said, include such things as “smoke grenades and white phosphorous artillery rounds used by the war-fighter for concealment on the battlefield.”

“The newest grenade that we support is the M-106,” Stortstrom wrote, describing the M-106 as a “bursting grenade” that fills the air with a “titanium dioxide cloud” after being thrown. “This would be used, say, in a sniper-defense scenario when the operator needs immediate concealment. And that’s one of the most-important jobs at ECBS — making sure the war-fighter has what he needs!”

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