Review of AK National Guard says improvements continue - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, June 5, 2020
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Review of AK National Guard says improvements continue

DUNLEAVY ASKED FOR A REPORT ON PROGRESS IN CULTURE OF GUARD

Things have improved in the Alaska National Guard in terms of the culture of the force and its treatment of women members, according to a new report.

The Department of Administration’s Oversight & Review Unit has completed its statewide assessment of the Alaska National Guard findings and recommendations about sexual assault, equal opportunity, coordination with local law enforcement, misconduct, command climate and the Alaska National Guard administration. Did the Guard improve and are the standards being met that were set forth in 2015?

“We found that the AKNG command has fully addressed and implemented recommendations made by Patricia Collins in 2015, and the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations (OCI) in 2014 regarding Equal Opportunity, Sexual Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation issues,” according to the summary at the Department of Administration.

The report states that Major General Torrence Saxe continues to implement the recommendations of the Collins that the Alaska National Guard command “adequately and appropriately responds to allegations of sexual assault or harassment by Guard members.”

Although the Guard trains and educates its members and command staff about misconduct and how to handle allegations, the review found that retention of the knowledge has declined in the three years since the recommendations took effect.

“We believe the AKNG would benefit from requiring its command staff to participate in additional training on sexual assault reporting and in advanced Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program (SHARP) scenario training to develop their abilities to respond to sexual misconduct cases,” the report states.

The entire report can be found at the Department of Administration’s page.

In 2014, a scandal erupted at the Alaska National Guard, which led to allegations that Gov. Sean Parnell had not paid close enough attention to allegations being made by a few women. That scandal was electrified by the fact that it was an election year, and both the Democrats and the mainstream media used it as a battering ram against the sitting governor, who eventually lost to Gov. Bill Walker. Walker had fed the scandal during his campaign, as did the Anchorage Daily News, which was under the direction of pro-Walker publisher Alice Rogoff.

In the events that ensued, the Alaska National Guard commander was forced out after a six-month federal review by the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations found that some members of the Guard had been mistreated after reporting sex assaults. Guard members lacked trust and confidence in the Guard leadership.

We also reviewed several records pertaining to sexual assault disciplinary proceedings from 2016 to September 2019. In all the cases that we reviewed, the AKNG responded quickly and appropriately to allegations of misconduct.

The Dunleavy Administration review of progress has made six recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the AKNG:

1. Require advanced SHARP Training for Leadership.

  1. Increase efforts to educate Guard members onsexual assault reporting knowledge.
  2. Establish an official channel of information sharingwith civil authorities.
  3. The AKNG continues to work with the NationalGuard Bureau to retain a full-time Military Judge.
  4. Consider mirroring active duty SARC staffing forthe AKNG.
  5. Establish an e-mail address for AKNG members tocommunicate directly with the Adjutant General (TAG) for allegations not handled or allegations not reported for fear of reprisal
  6. Add “Quick Links” for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Suicide Prevention Program sites to the DMVA main website.

Gov. Dunleavy had directed the review to ensure the State of Alaska is properly addressing any allegations of sexual assaults, sexual harassment or retaliation occurring in the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs. The Department of Administration Oversight & Review Unit conducted this review with the assistance of the Alaska National Guard.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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