Heat is on the National Guard

Finally after months of pretty good news coverage of the scandals plaguing the Arizona National Guard and Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, the Arizona Republic has turned up the editorial heat on new commander Michael McGuire.

It’s clear that the author of that editorial doesn’t understand, a) the gravity of the previous scandals, b) the potential that McGuire had at least some knowledge of those matters (if not involvement in them), and c) that Governor Jan Brewer’s office had months’ (if not years’) worth of warnings from whistle-blowers which were either ignored, or worse, forwarded to McGuire’s predecessor, Hugo Salazar, who covered them up or initiated reprisals against the whistle-blowers.

So good job, Phil Boas (or whoever wrote the opinion). Now, what took you so long? And keep it up!

EDITORIAL: Arizona Guard’s latest scandal

TRY SOME TRANSPARENCY

Other than the person who replaces Clarence Carter, preferably soon, at the Arizona Department of Eco­nomic Security, the agency director with the toughest job in state government right now is the fellow charged with reform­ing the Arizona National Guard.

What a challenge Brig. Gen. Michael McGuire faces.

It would be one thing if the Guard’s many scandals involv­ing fraud, sexual abuse, frater­nization and more all were behind McGuire. At least then the new commander could fo­cus all his energies on reshap­ing the culture of a vital but deeply troubled service.

But one of the more embar­rassing of the Arizona Guard’s recent scandals — the alleged sexual exploitation of a grieving Guard widow by not one but two Guard members assigned to assist her — lingers on. It per­sists in terms of the legal proc­ess and as an informational cover-up.

It continues in part because the new commander has not yet addressed one of the most self-­defeating practices of his pred­ecessors, the habit of with­holding documents in a futile attempt to make a scandal go away.

In 2011, a non-commissioned officer was assigned as a casu­alty assistance officer to a woman, herself a Guard mem­ber, in the wake of her hus­band’s non-combat death.

The sergeant developed a sexual relationship with the widow, an utterly forbidden practice. Then, evidence sur­faced that a captain assigned to investigate the affair also began acting inappropriately toward the widow.

The Guard refused to pro­vide Republic reporter Dennis Wagner with investigative files or disciplinary records in either case. Guard spokesmen insist the files are restricted by feder­al law. But, as Wagner reported, the Guard released numerous such investigative reports in­volving other cases.

A much-decorated F-16 pilot, McGuire describes his leader­ship philosophy as “firm but fair.” He clearly grasps the need to re-establish the good reputation of a proud and im­portant branch of the service.

But as Wagner has demon­strated in his many, incisive reports on the troubles at the Guard, the habit of trying to hide dirty laundry has consis­tently been a part of its many scandals.

It would not be fair to the new commander to conclude, at this early juncture, that he is repeating the mistakes of his predecessors. But withholding documents hardly fosters the kind of openness needed to ensure history doesn’t repeat any time soon.

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6 Comments

  1. My name is SGT Debbie Davis. I reported the Fraud of the Emergency Relief Fund to Congressman Schweikert’s office in Jan of 2011. That went no where. Back to the Guard where Salazar did a cover up. Instead of being rewarded I was Fired, Non-Recommeneded for promotion, and given a horrible NCOER so I begged for help at the Governor’s office in April of 2011.

    Instead of helping me I got a Bar for Re-enlistment counseling next time I attended drill in May of 2011. These are the kinds of things that went on against the whistleblowers like myself.

    I feel the community has a right to know this story.

    Respectfully,

    SGT Debbie Davis

  2. To add to my comment above, not only did General Salazar not care anything about any of the things I reported with the embezzelment and other things, he actually brought me into his office and threatened me for reporting this and told me that “this could come back on me”. So I then tried to contact the National Guard Bureau to get help and not only were they not helpful, I started receiving threats from them as well.

  3. An update to this, as I like how no journalist out there has bothered to do so (just report the alleged scandal and move on?):

    All charges were dropped because the widow admitted that she made sexual advances with both individuals. The wording of the above article is that the NCO and the captain made moves, and this is not true.

    Reports have been collected from all parties and the case is closed. The widow made the decisions she made and the those two guys made their decisions as well. NOBODY in this situation is in the right.

    Dennis Wagner could not get access to the records at the time and decided to fabricate his own news…terrible “journalist” and this is not the first time he has done this. He should not even be allowed to write with his lack of journalistic credibility.

    1. Thanks for your comment. As a former USAF officer, I recognize that regardless of consent or who initiated, it was absolutely improper for the NCO and the officer to have anything other than a professional relationship with the widow.

      Having said that,

      a) This issue is a very minor drama within an organization which has MAJOR dysfunction. Those structural deficits have serious potential to erode the national security role played by some of our AZ Guard components;

      b) Wagner didn’t write this piece I reprinted. This is an ‘editorial,’ which I presume to have been written by Phil Boas;

      c) I have had some issues with Wagner’s reporting, but if anything I believe his reporting has been TOO conservative. There are many layers beyond most of the individual storylines he’s covered, and he’s told me that he can’t go any farther without confirmation.

      I’m not trying to defend Dennis, which he can do himself. Just relating my experience in trying to get more coverage of these issues. I have much less regard for the editorial team at the AZ Republic, though.

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