JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell spoke with approximately 350 members of the Alaska National Guard during a town-hall meeting at the AKNG Armory here, Sunday.
Parnell requested the meeting with Guard members as a platform to have an open discussion about current changes happening within the AKNG pertaining to the released report from the Office of Complex Investigations, current changes happening within the AKNG, and how the Guard will move forward.
In order to promote open discussion, the meeting was closed to the public, and officers at the rank of colonel and above were not allowed to attend.
Parnell began by explaining the steps that led to his request of the OCI investigation from the National Guard Bureau and expressed his gratitude to the Guard members that participated in the surveys that led to the details of the OCI report.
“I want to say thank you to those of you who participated in that,” said Parnell. “There were about 1,000 responses to the command climate survey. I know you’ve been surveyed to death, and I’ve heard that, but I’ve got to tell you, that command climate survey, those 1,000 responses, were important to the Guard Bureau in assessing where we are and what changes need to be made.”
The surveys were conducted over a two-month period starting Apr. 1. With information revealed in the surveys, the OCI team then conducted on-site interviews with Guard members.
“The 185 interviews that they did as part of that six month review, those were incredibly important as well,” Parnell said. “What that review did was it revealed to us that the AKNG is a fantastic fighting unit, and it’s professional in the missions you take on, that you accomplish. It also revealed some significant areas of concern as a result of a small percentage of the Guard. This is what pains me, because I am sorry that the entire Guard has been painted with the brush really of a few, and the pain you have felt, and your families too, you don’t deserve that. I’m working hard to make sure that doesn’t get perpetuated for you, but I just want you to hear that from me.”
During the meeting, Guardsmen were able to vent their frustrations to Parnell and ask questions about what was being done to improve the issues addressed in the OCI report.
One Guard member brought up the concern about being protected from retaliation for those who report instances to their chain of command.
“You mentioned that you were willing to protect us from retaliation, so how are you going to do that?” she asked. “Retaliation comes in so many different forms.”
“Your leadership is now on notice that I am watching everything they’re doing,” responded Parnell. “I am finding out about many more personnel moves than I ever was before. I am working with the NGB in full partnership on those kinds of moves.”
Another Soldier confirmed Parnell’s words regarding how this is affecting Guard members and their families when he spoke out about how he feels being a member of the Guard with all that has transpired in the wake of the investigations. He addressed how the lack of trust in the process and leadership affects the organization and the morale of its members.
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