Gov. Bill Walker said Friday he is appointing retired Army Col. Laurie Hummel as adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
After Walker announced the appointment during a news conference in downtown Anchorage, Hummel said she will work to build a "mutual culture of trust" in the Alaska National Guard, which has been wracked by allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment and retribution.
"There will be no old boys' network," she said. "There will be no old girls' network."
Hummel narrowly lost an East Anchorage state House race as a Democrat in November to Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican. Before that bid to enter politics, Hummel had a 30-year military career as an officer and civilian, trained Afghans at a military academy in Kabul two years ago and Americans at West Point before that, traveled through Alaska during a four-year stint as an intelligence officer at Elmendorf Air Force Base and for a study of Cold War installations, and holds a doctorate in geography. She lives in Anchorage.
Hummel's husband, Chad Parker, a colonel in the Alaska guard, will voluntarily resign before Hummel steps into her role as adjutant general, according to Walker spokeswoman Grace Jang.
When asked how she will improve the culture within the guard, Hummel replied, "Changing culture is a slow process, but it starts with making sure there is one set of standards, one set of rules that everyone obeys no matter where they are in the chain of command."
Military rules require the adjutant general to be an active general or an active or retired officer who can be elevated to general. The adjutant general is by law commander of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
Walker also named retired Alaska Air National Guard Col. Robert Doehl as deputy commissioner of the department. Doehl was one of the whistleblowers who tried to call attention to problems within the Alaska guard. After he retired, he went to work as an aide to U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat who lost his seat in November.
Doehl said problems in the guard grew from "a system of complex, multiple … overlapping failures."
Mike Bridges has been acting as adjutant general of the guard since Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus was asked to resign in September amid a federal investigation that found significant problems within the ranks of the guard.
As for Bridges' role now, Walker said, "As far as his future, that is a personnel matter."
When asked whether as a woman Hummel was uniquely capable of tackling women's issues within the guard, she replied that she "wore a uniform for 34 years, and I've seen the military evolve, and (Doehl) and I were just talking before we came in here about all the walls coming down now."
"It's a new day," she said.
Allegations that state military officials and then-Gov. Sean Parnell had failed to address persistent reports of sexual assault, sexual misconduct and fraud began to unfold in media reports in autumn 2013.
Parnell had requested help from the Pentagon's National Guard Bureau in face of the complaints. Released Sept. 4, the bureau's report cited a failure of guard leadership by allowing a culture in which people feared retaliation for speaking out. Evidence of fraud and misuse of government property was also cited.
Parnell fired Katkus the day the report was released.
Parnell declined to appoint a new adjutant general of the guard before leaving office Dec. 1, saying the new administration needed to have confidence in the guard's new leader.
The appointments of Hummel and Doehl continue Walker's efforts to resolve the scandals in the guard, which damaged Parnell's re-election bid. Last week, Walker appointed a retired Juneau judge, Patricia Collins, as special investigator to review allegations of wrongdoing inside the guard and determine whether civilian law enforcement properly handled cases as they arose.
Going forward, Walker said at the news conference, "wrongdoers will be brought to justice, as I said before. Some will --" he started to say, then stopped himself, adding only, "They'll be brought to justice."