Here’s a Q & A with Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska National Guard, following David Holthouse’s story in the Anchorage Press about three National Guard recruiters who, according to internal documents, committed “sexual assaults and numerous cases of sexual harassment targeting fellow soldiers, new recruits, and civilian women, including high school JROTC cadets,” perpetrated by the three between 2007 to 2011. Holthouse’s story is based on the results of an internal investigation, called a 15-6, that were leaked to him. The questions are in bold.
Are they (the three recruiters) still members of the guard?
Without identifying or confirming specific names, I can tell you that recruiters who have been investigated are all still members of the Alaska National Guard until their boards are final, any appeals processes have been finalized, and administrative paperwork is completed.
When did the in investigations start, end, and who ordered it?
The first allegation of an improper relationship was reported to the organization in mid-Dec 2012; the accusation came into the organization at BG Bridges’ level and he dealt with it immediately. A commander’s inquiry was started within 72 hours to see if the information necessitated a 15-6 Investigation. When the veracity of the information was confirmed, a 15-6 was directed and an investigator was designated as the 15-6 investigating officer. The investigation revealed additional misconduct by other personnel, so concurrent investigations were directed and initiated within 60 days of the allegations coming into the organization. The investigator performed them all due to the interrelated nature of the circumstances. As the investigation progressed, personnel changes occurred with Recruiting and Retention Battalion staff pending administrative actions and final determinations. All investigations were complete by February 2014.
You said that the three are answering to a DOD board. What is that board and what prosecutorial authority does it have, if any?
Military personnel administrative boards. The National Guard is under title 32 statutes, which are administered differently than title 10 active duty statutes. There is no prosecutorial authority. There are military judge advocates who represent the command and the respondents. The board for enlisted members is made up of officers. We have made it a practice to bring in officers from other states and active duty to ensure full impartiality. Officers’ packets are sent to the appropriate operational active duty command. USARPAC’s is a four-star Army general, for instance. He would impanel a board comprised of active duty, Guard, or Reserve officers, senior to the officer being reviewed.
What could happen to them if they are found guilty of the allegations? Not guilty?
If enlisted members are found guilty, the strongest outcome would be an “other than honorable discharge,” which automatically downgrades them to the rank of E-1. National Guard cannot direct dishonorable discharges. If officers are found guilty, they could be stripped of their federal recognition, could be retired at a lower grade or even lose their retirement. Some cases have to go to the Department of the Army or Department of the Air Force for ultimate disposition.
Were any of the claims against these men sent to APD or the troopers? Why or why not?
While any administrative actions are in process, we will not speak to specific cases.
To your knowledge, did Gov. Sean Parnell know about the investigation and/or about the outcome?
MG Katkus briefed Gov. Parnell about the Alaska National Guard, and so I am unable to confirm what he did or did not share with the governor.
I should know this, but of the nine cases you referred to, how many were referred to APD?
A total of nine sexual assaults occurred and were reported from January 2009 to present, in which the alleged perpetrator was a member of the Alaska National Guard. Of the nine assaults, one occurred on duty at duty location. Three occurred off-duty on a military installation. Five occurred off duty, off base. All were referred to law enforcement. Agencies included APD, AST, Palmer, and Fairbanks. As well as CID and OSI when appropriate.
Do you know who leaked the report to the Anchorage Press?
I have no idea who leaked any official documents to media. When official documents are leaked, it is a violation of the Privacy Act and DoD regulation and policy. Leaked documents are not released by anyone acting in an official capacity on behalf of the organization.
What’s changed about the Guard’s recruiting office?
Lt Col Charles Knowles was assigned in June 2012. He has rebuilt the recruiting team and has brought assigned strength up to 100%. He reassigned six recruiters to other duties outside of the recruiting office. A seventh recruiter left the local unit, another was terminated from his position, and another was assigned a temporary duty pending administrative actions.
From Lt. Col. Knowles:
The RRB has spent the last two years changing personnel and how we do business. We are redirecting our marketing partnerships and recruiting efforts back into high schools, college campuses, and other family-oriented associations in order to communicate all of the opportunities for service, camaraderie, and personal growth young men and women can find in the Alaska Army National Guard. We are also making ourselves an asset by partnering with community organizations, participating in local community events, and actively looking for professional/leadership development groups so we can educate interested people and parties about the Army Guard’s mission, our values, and why our men and women are important to the state of Alaska and its communities. Our recruiters are engaging service-minded people every day and educating them on the benefits of being a Soldier and an Army Guard member. Ultimately, our enlistment numbers support the fact that we are a great organization interested in the faithful execution of our duties and care of our Soldiers and their families.
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