Quote of the day: Problems in National Guard pre-dated Parnell

Here’s a nominally edited comment from a reader who gives some background on a previous National Guard investigation, which I looked into some. I couldn’t come up with much except for this story, and this Administrative Order, signed by Gov. Tony Knowles. Anybody else know about this? (Note:  After I published this, someone sent me this article from the Seattle Times about the investigation. It’s an interesting read.)

I am a former Alaska Guard Member who left the Guard in disgust after an extensive investigation that had been conducted in 1994 came to light in 1995. This was called the Hightower investigation and it produced more than 100 allegations of racial bias, official misconduct, theft of government property and misuse of government property. All of the allegations were highly credible and well substantiated.

When the report from this investigation became public, Gov. Tony Knowles established the Alaska National Guard Board of Inquiry with Administrative order 151 and then amended the board’s scope and duties with Administrative order 153. The Board was to investigate the allegations and develop a course of action and report their findings and recommendations to the Adjutant General (Jake Lestinkof) the Governor (Tony Knowles) and the leadership of both houses of the Legislature: House Speaker Ramona Barnes and President of the Senate Lyman Hoffman.

I at first thought that the governor’s efforts were laudable, but as the year finished out and the Board met and then dissolved, and no other actions were taken, I slowly began to realize that nothing other than lip service was going to occur. Since then three separate governors have had opportunities to address the leadership problems that have plagued the National Guard for more than a decade and none have done so. Not Knowles. Not Gov. Frank Murkowski. Not Gov. Sarah Palin. Our current governor is also guilty of making an attempt to have this “just go away,” but the issue has grown so bad that he was unable to hide it any longer.

Yes, the governor should have done a lot more and should have acted a lot sooner. However, there are a lot of people who had many chances to do something to correct the well-known toxic culture in the Alaska National Guard and did absolutely nothing.


12 thoughts on “Quote of the day: Problems in National Guard pre-dated Parnell

  1. Lynn Willis

    There was adequate jurisdiction although that can certainly be further clarified and strengthened. The current state statues include this passage (Sec 26.05.060); “The Alaska National Guard and the Alaska Naval Militia and their members are subject to all federal laws and regulations relating to the National Guard and Naval Militia of the several states and territories of the United States.” also; “The governor may adopt necessary regulations for them.” Between this statute and criminal statutes relating to the crimes purportedly committed, the Governor could have acted a long time ago. He appoints the Attorney General and the head of the Troopers. He had the tools and the power to both substantiate the initial complaints and act upon them. In his video he claims he had a hard time finding facts. Well, he certainly had the ability to ask for a formal inquiry. Why didn’t the Governor consult with his A.G. and opt for a judicial resolution including the use of Subpoena’s instead of relying on this non-judicial process?
    You are correct that this is a simmering problem; however, this latest episode belongs to the current Administration, has existed since at least 2010, and remains unresolved and won’t be resolved until a judicial process is invoked to bring justice to all concerned.

  2. Patriotic

    There has been so much information and misinformation about the current National Guard scandal that you don’t know what to believe. The Guard, as we are increasingly becoming aware, appears to be scandal plagued since the late 1980s or certainly by the 1990s. Not one governor has meaningfully taken the Guard to task except Gov. Parnell. In the 90s, Gov. Knowles issued an Administrative Order appointing a review board but its value lasted until about 5 minutes after the press conference. It was total window dressing. These types of insincere approaches only fueled a rotting, loathing culture that increased in toxicity. Now, we have brazen sexual attacks, sexual harassment and intimidation, and plain corruption. Now, fixing it is sticky. Anchorage cops are members of the Guard, they’re not doing anything to help. In fact, you have to question if they aren’t part of the problem. One of the recruiters being looked at is a son of a top ranking APD member. The culpability is immense. Where can the governor turn? Also, while things may be taking longer than we like, there are protocols that must be followed under military rule. The whole thing sucks. But remember one thing, Parnell is the only governor who has dared to look seriously at the problem and he’s getting the shit kicked out of him for it. Weeding out corruption that is deep takes time. There will be more dismissals, indictments and hopefully prosecutions. No one has done more in Alaska to curb sexual assaults than Parnell. He, nor most of us, had no idea that the command of the Guard was allowing such behavior. Remember too, Katkus came from APD. This too, is part of the problem. No one has called for such a high level inquiry than Parnell. There are a very limited number of people that Parnell can fire and discipline. His title of Commander and Chief of the Guard, believe it or not, does not give him authority to do much. Now, that he has called in the national brass, hopefully, this mess will begin to get fixed. Heard from the troops that Parnell visited a large group of them on Sunday and they very much appreciated the forum and what he said. He did so without the media present. He wasn’t grandstanding, just working.

  3. Lynn Willis

    Ah Ha,
    These problems with the National Guard did not start five years ago as you have pointed out. We had problems years ago and as somebody has also pointed out any large organization is going to have problems. The difference is the scope and magnitude not to mention the nature of these purported crimes of a violent nature and the possibility that the rot has now permeated beyond the National Guard command structure. For example, I don’t remember hearing of anyone in the Hightower investigation having to sue for emails outside the Guard.
    You mention purported victims being turned away. That point was made by another individual claiming investigations were somehow turned back the Guard by the Police and State Troopers. I want to see someone search for the records of those inquires into jurisdiction or veracity of the charges that caused, according to General Katkus, 21 of the 29 reported cases to not have investigations opened by law enforcement.
    I would think the solution is to use a special prosecutor but that effort will take political motivation and will which, at this time, does not exist in Alaska.

  4. AH HA

    As you noted previously, there are the six area’s of concern….. for the long term, unless a serious attempt to address those six key area’s is made this sort of thing will continue to occur… just as it has in the past. In the short term, I’m at a loss…. I’m pretty sure that several of the victims had taken these crimes to APD some months back and have essentially been told to go away. I’m not sure what would be appropriate. I’d really like to see some justice for these victims but I’m concerned that any ‘special prosecutor’ or ‘board of review’ will just turn into a political mess.

    Ps: Oddly, I believe that it’s probably too late for Parnell to effectively claim that this is something that he inherited, even though it is. I’m pretty sure that if he would have done that some months ago it may have worked and probably worked quite well. I’m certain that this is going to cost him the election.

  5. Lynn Willis

    Ah Ha,
    First let us not forget the current soldiers, both the purported victims and the suspected perpetrators, who all deserve real justice. What angers me so about this situation is the employment of diversionary tactics to change and displace the focus.
    After we accomplish the first objective, I agree that a resumption of the Hightower effort can and should resume with clearly stated objective(s) including public testimony from Guard Veterans.

  6. AH HA

    Lynn, what I’m hoping is that some of the people (and there were many) who testified in the Hightower matter will come forward now.

  7. Lynn Willis

    Ah Ha
    There is an adage that states “The solution to pollution is dilution”. The same adage could apply to this kind of situation. The more people that can possibly be tainted with this portrait of Guard ineptitude and moral turpitude (including any one of us who served in the Guard going back twenty years or more) the better it looks for the current administration who would love nothing more than to cast the widest possible net and claim they inherited this “terrible” situation then further add the “spin” that they are riding to the rescue finally. That is just politics.
    Property crimes not withstanding, let us never forget that soldiers were not just discriminated against (as bad as that was then); now in this current situation, there is reliable evidence that soldiers were sexually assaulted and there is further suspicion that a conspiracy to cover up that behavior was undertaken. The question remains; how do we best get to the bottom of this to determine guilt to a legal standard, punish the guilty, exonerate the wrongfully accused, bring justice to the offended and then prevent these failings from happening ever again at this magnitude or anything close to it?

  8. AH HA

    I did not mean to imply that Governor Parnell should be in any way less liable. He is the Man in charge and ultimately, It was occurring on his watch as well.

    What I had hoped to convey is that this issue has been ongoing for more than a Decade and many senior people in the Guard, several administrations and the legislature have been well aware of the problems plaguing the Alaska Guards leadership and have made no move to correct or address the issue.

  9. Lynn Willis

    (I will re-post my resonce to AH HA I just posted a few minutes ago)

    AH HA,
    I remember that investigation that is fairly described by you. To me, it seemed like a solution that was searching for a pre-determined problem that could never quite be found because they refused to see that the problem was, in many cases, facing them in the mirror. I remember mostly the problems were associated with serious racial bias and favoritism.
    While I wouldn’t put that crisis nearly in the league of this one, it too was not well handled as you point out. The same organizational structural problems that created the problems then have now created an exponentially worse situation. What is so sad is that the Governor and Legislature are once again attempting to just get this behind them with another “truth and reconciliation” effort similar (if not the same) that you described.
    When I retired I would have identified six significant areas of concern (but nobody asked). . First is the undue political influence by the creation of a State Commissioner position who is both a senior political appointee and a two-star General Officer. Second; is the “top-heavy” rank structure with too many senior enlisted and officer positions for such a relatively small force. Third; is the ability of full-time personal to dominate the senior enlisted and officer positions which denies the Guard the critical expertise and contributions of community members who were then sometimes looked down upon as “only part-timers”. Forth: is the absence of a viable State Uniform Code of Military Justice that could be used to enforce discipline. Fifth, at least in the Army Guard, is the “Anchorage-Centric” nature of the Guard command structure which concentrated all command power in Anchorage. Sixth, is the refusal of command to non-voluntarily transfer personnel, wishing to remain serving on Guard Active Duty, to other units at locations within the State where their ability could be utilized.
    Sorry we lost you and so many others to frustration. You might want to contact your Legislators and share with them your observations.

  10. Sam P.

    There are problems in every organization. Democrats just find this useful to their purposes, that’s it, but a lot of good Guardsmen are getting hurt by this, and the more this is in the news, the more trumped it up seems.

    Parnell has done so much for our state — production up, gas line progress, school funding, education reform, ferries for Southeast being built in Ketchikan. Scholarships for Alaska’s students. The list goes on and on. Proud to call him Governor.

  11. John Q. Public

    Regardless of the past, the fact is that Parnell has been commander-in-chief- since Palin resigned in 2009. 5+ years should have been enough to fix it, especially when problems were brought to the attention of the governor and chief of staff in 2010.

    Or, to put it another way, two (or more) wrongs don’t make a right.

  12. Real Army Vet

    I remember when you had to be politically connected to get in the

    Gaurd or the Reserves. That was VietNam days and the Draft.

    The clubhouse drinking weekends were a joke and none of them were

    fit for real duty.

    Now there are bonuses up to $15,000 , cheap Heath Insurance and pretty

    good pay, $500.00 bucks for a weekend playing at soldier.

    Plus base exchange and tuition benefits, even VA home loans.

    There is no reason not to have well qualified members.

    The biggest irony to the current sick saga is the number of Alaskan

    Cops that are part of this current group. Why did none of them

    come forward, do their duty and report the crimes?

    Let’s get a roster and cross check the police members and then start

    with them for statements.

    There are also a number of lawyers and judges that were members.

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