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New leadership, investigator bode well for Alaska Guard

  • Author: Sue Levi
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published February 7, 2015

Like many Alaskans, I watched with extreme dismay and concern as the National Guard scandal unfolded during the fall of 2014. Reports of rape, sexual assault, fraud and other misconduct were profoundly disturbing. As news reports about these crimes came out, Alaska Women for Political Action and other community groups called for accountability and reform within the guard and the Parnell administration.

Reform is happening right now thanks to decisive action by the Walker/Mallott administration. The governor has appointed a special investigator who is following up on unprosecuted reports of rape, sexual assault and fraud. Gov. Bill Walker has appointed new guard leaders who are well-respected by National Guard members, the vast majority of whom abhorred the crimes of a few.

Patricia Collins, a retired judge, is the governor's appointee investigating alleged crimes. This investigation is extremely important because far too many crimes were either covered up or never investigated. Corrupt guard leaders, some political appointees from a previous administration, protected perpetrators from punishment. The former adjutant general and his cronies tried to obstruct police investigations, possibly in collusion with one or two bad apples in the police force.

As a result of this corruption, numerous rapes and sexual assaults were not investigated, much less prosecuted. The corrupt guard leaders even punished rape and sexual assault victims, violating their confidentiality and shaming them to protect perpetrators. Gov. Walker's special investigator will get to the bottom of these problems and ensure criminals are prosecuted for this misconduct. That is a key component of reform, but that's not all Gov. Walker is doing to restore our faith in the guard.

The governor recently announced new leadership of the guard, appointing Laurie Hummel as adjutant general and Bob Doehl as deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. Gen. Hummel previously served as head of the Alaska Intelligence Command, in addition to teaching at West Point and serving in the Middle East. Her military credentials are impeccable. Col. Doehl served in the Alaska Air Guard, and was one of several guard whistleblowers who opposed misconduct that later was identified in reports about the National Guard scandal.

With these two appointments, Gov. Walker has sent a very clear signal that he supports comprehensive reform in the guard.

Many legislators also have endorsed guard reforms, including Sens. Lesil McGuire, Bill Wielechowski, and Bert Stedman. In the House, Rep. Chris Tuck has introduced legislation to update Alaska's Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), a recommendation of guard veterans who saw how a weak UCMJ makes it harder to hold sexual assault perpetrators accountable. I hope the Legislature continues to support guard reform efforts.

As a member of a military family, I couldn't be more supportive of the Walker/Mallott guard reform efforts. I want to be proud of our National Guard again, and restoring the guard's honor means holding criminals accountable while putting honorable, trustworthy leaders in place. During the last administration, Gov. Parnell ignored reports of rape and sexual assault while his appointees condoned misconduct. Gov. Walker is cleaning house, and deserves credit for his strong leadership to reform the guard.

Sue Levi is a longtime Alaskan and has been active in politics, has worked for the Alaska Senate and for several administrations. She is currently treasurer and spokesperson for the Alaska Women for Political Action. This past fall, she and her organization were directly involved in championing the National Guard issue and in rallying the public's interest to demand an investigation and guard reform.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com

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