Voices of Alaska: National Guard focused on restoring trust

  • By Brig. Gen. (Alaska) Laurie Hummel
  • Thursday, June 18, 2015 3:04pm
  • Opinion

On Monday, the Department of Law released retired Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins’ independent investigation of the Alaska National Guard to the public. Like many Alaskans, I greet its release with a sense of anger and frustration that over several years some members of the Guard mistreated people and misused public funds. Also like many Alaskans, I am relieved the report contains no new examples of improper behavior.

As the Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, it’s up to me, my leadership team, and all the members of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Moving forward, we will be the force Alaskans want us to be, executing critical federal missions, ready to deploy abroad to defend our nation, and well-trained to respond to emergencies here at home.

Through this past legislative session we made important progress toward updating an Alaska Code of Military Justice that gives commanders the tools to maintain a disciplined military force. We owe thanks to Representatives Gabrielle LeDoux and Chris Tuck in particular for their help so far, and look forward to passage of legislation next year that will enable the regulations and processes to keep our house in order.

We also have installed the first Provost Marshal of the Alaska National Guard, Major Brian Fuchs, who is on military leave from the Anchorage Police Department. His job is not to investigate crime but to ensure criminal activity within the Guard isn’t hidden behind the cloth of uniform or the armory door. Instead, it will be handled by the appropriate Alaska law enforcement agency. On Monday Governor Bill Walker personally gave Major Fuchs his special commission from the state to further this seamless communication.

These are important practical steps, but the real transformation will happen operationally. I commit to you that we will rely on a few basic principals in everything we do. Using the core values of professionalism, commitment and teamwork, we will:

— Adhere to doctrine. Every action we take will be grounded in law, regulation and policy. If it’s not, we won’t do it.

— Employ sound and transparent processes for everything we do. Guardsmen and women will know why they are doing something and can expect the outcome to be consistent and appropriate.

— Focus on our customers, the people of Alaska. Alaskans will know our actions are moral, legal, and ethical.

My first few months on the job have confirmed my faith in the character of the men and women of the Alaska National Guard. When they see leadership live these values and commit to these principles for doing business, they will respond.

While it only takes a few bad actors to tarnish the reputation of a large agency, making the Alaska National Guard whole again will be the work of many, not just a few. Real transformation is possible even in large organizations such as the Alaska National Guard, but it takes commitment and effort. We can do it; I have seen firsthand the early results of the reforms put in place last fall, and additional positive changes have been made since then. With the findings from Judge Collins’ report in hand, Governor Walker’s unqualified and continuing support, and the leadership team in place today, we will move beyond these serious problems.

While Judge Collins’ report covers a period of time prior to my appointment, Alaskans deserve an apology for what was allowed to happen. On behalf of the Guard, let me apologize to a number of individuals, and Alaskans more broadly, for this organization’s mishandling of complaints about serious offenses and for betraying the confidence of people who sought help and justice. While going forward the Guard will care for those individuals, we must continue to take serious and broad sweeping steps to be a better force for Alaska. We were wrong, we can do better, and we’re on the path to making things right.

The history of the Alaska National Guard is not that long, but it is unique and noteworthy. With its roots in the men of the Alaska Territorial Guard who provided practical, Alaskan “know how” to defend our nation’s coastline in World War II, the Alaska National Guard has a host of skills and talents to offer our nation and state.

As we prepare ourselves to face the challenges ahead, we will build on our history and engagement with all Alaska communities, increase our emergency management capacity, and prepare for a changing Arctic. I commit to you that the Alaska National Guard will once again be a source of pride for Alaskans.

Brigadier General (Alaska) Laurie Hummel is the Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard and the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. A third generation soldier and 30 year veteran of the U.S. Army, she was formerly a military intelligence officer.

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