Bill Walker’s role in bringing the National Guard sexual abuse story to light

Sometime last fall, two chaplains with Alaska’s National Guard knocked on independent gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker’s door. They had something to say about rampant sexual abuse in the Guard, and they didn’t know where else to go. They had tried everything else. They even broke ranks and went to Gov. Sean Parnell years before, in 2010. They waited. Nothing happened.

One of them knew Walker from church. He started telling Walker about what he knew and what has since been reported. Female Guard members were getting sexually assaulted and nobody seemed to be doing anything about it.

There’s been a nasty rumor going around that Walker knew about the sexual assaults, but that he also sat on the information. After I heard the rumor, I asked to speak with Walker about what happened.

While it’s true that Walker didn’t have an easy answer for the chaplains, it’s untrue that he didn’t do anything. He did what he knew how to do to get the information out to the public and to get the abuse to stop.

When the chaplains came to Walker, he was already a candidate for governor, and he knew that if he made an issue of it, he risked it turning into a political story, he said. And if that happened, there’s a chance that the story itself would be minimized.

“I was horrified,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. But I knew something had to be done.” So shortly after the chaplains left, he picked up the phone and called former Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker for advice. He then flew up to Fairbanks to talk to Whitaker.

Whitaker, who confirmed Walker’s account, told him that he’d handle it and that he had a good relationship with a trusted reporter. Weeks later, the first story by McClatchy reporter Sean Cockerham appeared in the Anchorage Daily News about the abuses.

Whitaker confirmed that he called Cockerham and provided him information. As is standard policy with reporters, Cockerham would neither confirm nor deny that Whitaker was a source.

The story that Cockerham chronicled shocked many in the state. It said that at least 29 cases of alleged sexual assault have been reported to local law enforcement. As of October, no one had been charged or prosecuted.

It also said that the chaplains had come to Parnell in 2010—presumably the same ones who came to Walker three years later—to ask for help. According to the story, one member of the guard, Lt. Col. Ken Blalock had about 15 victims come to him. He also said that he told Parnell and the Anchorage Police about the issues, and got his “butt chewed” for going above his chain of command by the head of the Guard Gen. Tom Katkus.

Following the article, Katkus issued a statement and wrote a column in the ADN assuring the public that the Guard takes these issues seriously and that “the Anchorage Police Department and the Alaska State Troopers, was (sic) contacted in 21 cases, and for reasons specific to each case, these law enforcement agencies did not open investigations.”

Also following the article, the Alaska National Guard revealed that a dozen soldiers face administrative charges of sexual misconduct, including four sexual assault cases.

In late February, Gov. Parnell called on the federal government to help investigate the issue. He said that prior to the time, the information he received was too vague to call for action. However, in February, he talked to a “specific person who was able to make specific claims about what went wrong.” Within 24 hours, he went to the feds.

Contact Amanda Coyne at


11 thoughts on “Bill Walker’s role in bringing the National Guard sexual abuse story to light

  1. Tom

    Parnell, he’s disrespected sexual assault victims, played a financial shell game with his reporting of deficits, placed a generation of natives in prisons and when all’s said and done–he’ll go back to work for the oil companies. Alaskans must act and refuse to be mislead any further.

  2. Mae

    It is important to know someone cares about a injustice occurring. Especially if your the victim.
    Remember perps choose victims not respect.

  3. Les Moore

    So……..This seems kind of awkward, but when is somebody going to start asking questions of APD and AST about what they knew and when they knew it ?

    It seems to me that if these cases were turned over to APD and AST, then it should be those two agencies that need come clean here.

    This is most likely why Parnell and Katkus are working overtime to keep this covered up, it goes deep and it’s highly offensive.

  4. Shattered

    At least someone did something about it. Thank you to the chaplains who were persistent in getting this problem addressed and to Mr. Walker for moving this forward.

    Now, if those who perpetrated these acts and those who were supposed to investigate and prosecute can be held accountable, we’d really have something.

    It’s beyond me why those who were charged with investigating these charges decided not to do their jobs. I suspect there is greater malfeasance/misfeasance of office than is outwardly apparent.

  5. 357

    Great story, great journalism. Enjoyed the back story to better understand the genesis of how this story came to life. As always, love your blog. Keep up the great work. Your site covers politics and governm$ent in Alaska better than any publication in the state.

  6. Lynn Willis

    I offer a tip of the hat and a thank you to Bill Walker for his concern for Alaskans and his artful handling of this situation to bring light on this subject. Also, I again say thank you to Senator Fred Dyson for once again demonstrating the courage to bring justice to Alaskans as he did in the scandal surrounding Bill Allen. For those elected officials and others who wonder what leadership may look like – that is how it looks.
    Meanwhile back in the Governor’s mansion, a four year old scandal has now reached the point where the usual tactics of displacement of responsibility and denial of knowledge seem not to be working as they usually do. Even the Governor demanding/begging that all Alaskans “choose respect” in these matters was not effective.
    So after all this time has the Governor demanded action by his own appointed Attorney General or asked for legislative hearings or asked his Adjutant General/ State Commissioner (same person) to produce a formal inspector general report or report of other formal investigation under Army Regulations then release those investigation findings as allowed? No, Governor Parnell has finally decided to call in a (normally despised) outside federal agency which has no direct subpoena or law enforcement authority and is, in fact, the federal bureau of the National Guard who stands to be embarrassed by this potential leadership failure for many of the same reasons the local National Guard does.
    Nothing destroys military unit cohesion faster than favoritism even when only perceived. When those who might abuse soldiers are not either cleared of suspicion or convicted of a crime a cancer begins to spread. After four years of not resolving this crisis in command significant damage has already been done – and that is a inexcusable failure of leadership.

  7. Dirk Nelson

    There’s probably a dozen reasons I can immediately think of to vote for Bill Walker these days; this story is just one of them. A big one, but just one.

    That’s not to say I absolutely intend to vote for Walker. I’m not sure yet who my final pick will be.

    I -am- sure I won’t be voting for Sean Parnell. That much is certain.

    I don’t want a good ol’ boy beholding to the transnational resource extraction opportunists, or anyone else indebted to someone other than their properly defined constituency.

    I want maturity, dedication, and a person who, when they say they believe Alaskans come first, actually means it; someone who takes telephone calls from Alaskans before they take calls from Houston, Tx or London England..

Comments are closed.