An investigation released Thursday details a long list of failures in how the Alaska National Guard handles reports of sexual assault and other matters.
In response to the findings, Governor Sean Parnell asked for the resignation of National Guard Major General Thomas Katkus, effective immediately.
“This culture of mistrust and failed leadership in the Guard, it ends now,” Parnell said.
Governor Parnell requested that the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations look into allegations in February, after receiving complaints about how guard leadership addressed reports of sexual assault. At a press conference in Anchorage this afternoon, Parnell summarized the findings of the 230-page report.
“Alaska Guard members lack trust and confidence in the Alaska national Guard’s leadership to handle sexual assault cases, or to administer justice for other misconduct in a fair, evenhanded manner without reprisal,” Parnell said.
The Guard Bureau looked at 37 cases of sexual assault. The Bureau found that many of the cases were reviewed by people who weren’t trained to conduct sexual assault investigations. Some victims also told the Guard Bureau they were ostracized and abused by fellow guard members after reporting sexual assault.
Confidentiality was also a problem. One victim of sexual assault reported to the Bureau that she had overheard a fellow service member discussing the details of her own assault while at work.
Parnell first heard of issues in the Guard in 2010 and he has been criticized for not acting sooner to correct the problem. Parnell says when he looked into concerns in the past, he heard from Guard members and leadership that the cases were being handled properly. He says the complaints persisted and that led him to call for this outside investigation.
“I’m extremely frustrated and I’m angry it’s taken so long to get to the bottom of these issues,” Parnell said. “The Alaska Guard members deserve better.”
“The victims who have been hurt and those who have brought complaints forward deserve better. In hindsight is clearly shouldn’t have taken this long.”
The report details several other problems in the Alaska Guard including sexual harassment, discrimination based on race, and fraud committed by guard members and leadership.
The report makes dozens of recommendations for changes and describes a plan to make those changes. Parnell says he will establish a project team to implement the recommendations.