Paper: Leaked files show years of alleged misconduct among Alaska Army Guard officers

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Investigative files show years of alleged sexual and other misconduct among officers within the Alaska Army National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion.

The files, leaked to the Alaska Dispatch News, were prepared between 2010 and 2014.

Most of the leaked files contain portions of the full investigations and do not provide defense statements from the officers or the final results.

Gov. Sean Parnell has been criticized for not acting quickly enough in response to allegations of misconduct within the Guard. News organizations and others have requested information on the administration's response and Guard records.

The files describe a unit in which officers cheated on their wives, bullied civilians, drank to excess and made demeaning comments about women, including fellow soldiers, the Alaska Dispatch News reported (http://bit.ly/1tDkRdW ). Battalion officers had sex with soldiers and civilians in their recruiting offices, in their government cars and in RVs they brought to official events, the reports say.

Officers forced enlisted soldiers to take them home when they were too drunk to drive, and an officer left three soldiers at a highway pullout to go snowmachine riding with the head of the Guard at that time, Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, the newspaper reported. Four soldiers who felt harassed by senior officers requested transfers, the reports show.

The Guard, unlike other branches of the military, lacks authority to file criminal proceedings against soldiers accused of misconduct but can seek to reduce their rank and give them an other-than-honorable discharge.

The leaked material names 10 commissioned and noncommissioned officers in the battalion as subjects of investigation. Six investigations were completed between 2010 and 2013. The rest occurred when the National Guard Bureau was brought in to investigate at Parnell's request.

Parnell has said he obtained "concrete examples" of how the command structure was "failing Guard members" this past February and took those to the bureau.

The bureau's Office of Complex Investigations conducted a review released in September that found victims did not trust the system because they lacked confidence in the command. Parnell requested Katkus' resignation and later also asked a deputy commissioner of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, McHugh Pierre, to resign.

The report noted that other investigations, including those recently leaked to reporters, uncovered many of the problems.

"Several command-directed investigations initiated in 2012 found that, during the time period of 2008-2009, several noncommissioned officers within this command were engaged in misuse of government vehicles, fraud, adultery, inappropriate relationships and sexual assault," the report said.

The report said Katkus bore some responsibility, noting that after he was appointed to lead the Guard in November 2009, Katkus changed the command structure, directing the head of recruiting and retention to report directly to him.

The top recruiting official, Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, was a friend and neighbor of Katkus, "creating a perception that this commander was invulnerable," the report said.

Leaked documents show Lawendowski was the subject of an investigation, which concluded that he be removed from the guard with an "other than honorable" separation and reprimanded for dereliction of duty and misconduct. Brig. Gen. Leon "Mike" Bridges, now acting adjutant general, ordered that the "other than honorable" recommendation be stricken from the final report and that Lawendowski be allowed to stay in the guard until he reached his 20-year service mark, the normal time to retire.

Lawendowski didn't respond to messages from the newspaper seeking comment.

Lt. Col. Charles Knowles, who took over from Lawendowski in June 2012, said by email that he has been "changing personnel and how we do business" since then. He said he reassigned six recruiters to other duties, fired another and gave temporary duty to an eighth, "pending administrative actions."

The leaked documents show bad behavior within the Guard dating to the mid-2000s.


Information from: Alaska Dispatch News, http://www.adn.com

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