09/17/14

Shame in the Alaska Army National Guard

I was 17 when I joined the Alaska Army National Guard, still a junior in high school. I enlisted to be an 11 Bravo, an infantryman. 24 years later I retired. In those 24 years I saw thousands of acts of sacrifice, thousands upon thousands acts of honor and professionalism. I helped the citizens of Tenakee Springs recover from a devastating storm, with unique help coming from our LCM-8 landing craft. I’ve manned a checkpoint during the Big Lake fires, helping to protect the property of evacuated homeowners from those who would take advantage of their distress. I’ve stood shoulder-to-shoulder with fellow guardsman probing to recover avalanche victims, and traveled to Haiti to help their desperate citizens, and watched our flight crews fly countless missions to help Alaskans.

Year after year, FTX after FTX I’ve watched senior soldiers at the company level make sure their troops eat before they do. I’ve seen soldiers watch each other’s backs in dangerous situations. I’ve trained in temperatures as low as 58 below zero, but I’ve never seen a guardsman with serious frostbite. Year after year, small-unit leaders would give their time to plan and resource effective training. Maj. Blaylock trusted 150 soldiers with a 36 hour pass in Hawaii – 4 were late to formation when their rental car got a flat tire. These are such good people. Although the Guard never called for me to deploy, as a Supply Sergeant I’ve helped hundreds of soldiers deploy. I was returning from the same meeting at Camp Shelby, Mississippi that SFC Dauma and SSG Brown were at, only they were killed by a trucker spaced out on amphetamine. The crew of ICY-33, CW4 Troxell, 1LT Campbell, SPC Edwards and SPC Melson were my fellow soldiers in the Aviation Battalion when they died in Iraq. I helped inventory and pack their personal effects.

My brothers in the 3rd Battalion patrolled the streets of Baghdad with honor and effectiveness. As for me, I gave the Guard my best. As the Supply Sergeant for Charlie Company, 3rd BN, 297th Infantry (Scout) I not only survived a National Guard Bureau Command Supply Inspection, but the team chief who conducted the inspection wrote that out of the 387 Supply Rooms that he had inspected, mine was the best that he had seen. As the Battalion Supply Sergeant for the Aviation Battalion I conducted logistical coordination with the military attaché’s office, the Air Force, Haitian locals and SOUTHCOM while concurrently serving as the Battalion’s Unit Movement Officer. All through my service I tried to reach out, share information and knowledge and be a mentor and an example.

It was clear at the end of my career that there was corruption in our senior leadership. As a “full-timer”, I sat in an annual ethics brief which centered on the need to absolutely, 100% use NO government assets to support non-government organizations, and the Army National Guard Association was highlighted. We weren’t to even use a government printer to make a flier. Shortly after this briefing it was announced by LTC DeHaas, the State Aviation Officer that the Adjutant’s General Association of the United States was going to host their annual meeting in Alaska, and the Alaska Guard would support this meeting without reservation. I was told in meetings that full-time staff would volunteer to provide tour guides, bus drivers and baggage handlers. Contrary to the very clear ethics brief, 100’s of full time man hours were spent, schedules printed, and busses and vans were used. Even though pressured, I refused to “volunteer”, and was one of the few people in my battalion’s office for days, and ended up fielding call after call from the soldiers we were supposed to be supporting. Clearly, if a wrong was large enough, it was no longer considered a wrong. It was sickening to watch.

I knew that there were cults of personalities and different standards for the senior leadership than the soldiers they led, but I had no idea of how corrupt and evil things were outside of my immediate experience until recently. Things such as the State Aviation Officer using Blackhawk helicopters for bear perspective gain, or the establishment of bogus units to pad the service records of colonels striving for a colonels a general‘s star. But by far, it is the shameful sexual abuse and cover-ups that rattles me to my bones. It pains me that where once Alaskans would look favorably on the Alaska Guard that I love so much, they will now associate all of us with the scum who built their little empires and treated some of Alaska‘s most honorable citizens as chattel. I would try to shame these wretched leaders, but I fear that they have no shame.

Regardless, they dishonor us in a very fundamental way. Although it is hard to see these issues come to public light, I thank those who’s sense of honor compelled them to stand up to the corruption and force change. Now I wait to see if justice will be served, but to be honest, I hold little hope that it will. To those still serving, I wish you the strength to continue to do what‘s right. To my fellow Alaskans, please know that the Alaska Guard is so much more than what you are now seeing in the news, and I ask that you demand better leadership for your citizen soldiers, and consider signing this petition requesting that the governor appoint Col. David Osborne, an honorable man and effective leader, as our state’s senior officer. Honor isn’t dead.