Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Matthew Bond poses for a portrait at a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Members of the United Sentinel Militia take part in a room or building clearing exercise during a field training event in Utah. "There’s a lot of militia groups, we call them bug out groups. They're always prepared for this whole "crap hits the fan" situation. Their whole plan is that their gonna run out to the desert and hide. And that’s not us. We want to help people cause I value my neighbor down the street and I hope they value me too so I’d want to be there to help them," says Torrey Weber, commander of the USM

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Children of training attendees play under a tent during a field training exercise in rural Utah.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Ace Spade practices drawing his hand gun in the living room of a members home during a training exercise. "Like a lot of people I want to have a plan. A want to have a group of people I can rely on not only for protection but also to protect. If something were to happen, civil unrest or a natural disaster and our government was not able to protect us, I don’t want to be one of those helpless people that’s just gonna fall by the wayside to irrelevance or insignificance. I want to actually do something in my community to show that I’m willing to do what it takes. I’m a patriot. I’m willing to bleed on that flag so those strips stay red," says James Wood.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

A target used during a live fire training at a Utah State Militia training event. "Yeah I train with weapons a lot but if I never had to point my gun at anybody, yeah that’s great. I don’t want to hurt anybody," says Torrey Weber, commander of the USM.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Matthew Bond shows his son, Hayden, how to shoot a bb gun during a United Sentinel Militia training event in rural Utah. "Once upon a time militia wasn’t a bad word. It was just your neighbors and they got together to help defend each other. It’s not what people think with hiding in a bunker out in the middle of nowhere. I want to bring honor back to the word because at one time it was an honorable word," says USM commander Torrey Weber.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

James Wood conducts map reading and basic orienteering training with members of the Utah State Militia during a field training exercise in rural Utah.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

USM Commander Torrey Weber participates in a demonstration about searching dead bodies of enemy combatants during a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Militia members practice hand gun draws during a field training exercise in a members home.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Militia members practice drawing their handguns from their waistbands and purses during a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Militia members practice a room clearing drill during a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Torrey Webber poses for a portrait at a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Chad Carter leads a group on a ruck march during a training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Jason Wood and Lacie Stultz-Bond visit in with Bond's dog Emma after a training.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Chad Carter and Joe Sargent ride in the back of a truck on the way to an activity during a field training exercise. "There is a fear there that we all kind of share but at the end of the day we choose not to live in fear. I think that’s the really important thing and one of the reasons why we’re all so close," says James Wood, executive officer of the USM.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

A militia member camouflages himself with brush to help him evade patrolling “captors” during a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) training exercise during a field training event in rural Utah.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

USM member Lindsay Wood holds her daughter, Rory, during a field training exercise in rural Utah. "We’'re normal. I do the same things as you. On my Facebook I still post pictures of my cats and dinner and everything else. It’s not like all I’m focused on is this crazy training. It’s a normal life; we just have another aspect to it," says Wood.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Matthew Bond tells his son, Hayden, to go to bed after he wandered into the kitchen during a poker game at a gathering with members of the Utah State Militia after a field training exercise earlier in the day.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Banner and Autumn Wentz show off matching tattoos with reference to the III's movement at their home.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Autumn Wentz trains in an obstacle course as her son, River, follows behind during a militia training exercise.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Torrey Weber (left) holds his daughter as (right) James Wood inspects a Weber’s son’s BB gun during a Utah State Militia BBQ at Weber’s home in Utah County.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Banner Wentz watches his son play with a neighbor in his front yard. Banner displays controversial flags outside of his home. He believes the recent push to take Confederate flags down at government buildings impinges on free speech.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Autumn Wentz watches over her kids River and Story as they complete school assignments. Autumn home schools all three of her kids and oversees all of their education.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

James gives a kiss to his daughter Rory in the living room of their home a few days after Christmas.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Story Wentz, left, and Rory Wood, both children of militia members ride in the back of the Wentz’ pick-up truck during a militia event.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Karl Cunningham sneaks up behind Nick Wells and puts him in a headlock during an unofficial gathering of United Sentinel Militia members after a training in rural Utah.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

James Wood and Torrey Webber hang out by the campfire during an overnight training.

Land of the Free

Land of the Free

Lindsay and her husband James Wood pose for a portrait at a field training exercise.

Land of the Free

Photography by Kim Raff

A new wave of militias are emerging throughout the United States. They are increasingly organized, well-armed and steadily recruiting members into a club long lionized as a fringe movement welcoming the collapse of society. Although, in reality, that is not the flag many of today’s militias are flying the highest, if at all. The gut of their cause is often relevance as opposed to reclusiveness.

For multiple years I followed the United Sentinel Militia, Utah’s largest constitutional militia, as it weathers through an identity crisis less of their own design than of the society they see themselves preparing to defend. And in that time I’ve discovered a nuanced group more compelling than the caricatures that make its way onto TV and into print.

“Land of the Free” challenges the perceived motivations of a militia making few illusions about what they represent; an unapologetic view that may indeed be more in line with the pivot politics is taking in our country.

Visually, it’s a dynamic story about more than a fringe society drunk on the 2nd amendment. This is a story about our neighbors. And it’s one worth sharing with those who think militias are content to continue living in the shadows.

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