Colonel’s Military Honors Questioned In Wake Of Guard Scandal

A recent federal investigation documented a whole host of abuses in the Alaska National Guard, ranging from mishandling of sexual assault to embezzlement. Two of the state’s top military officials have already resigned as a result. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that attention is now moving to other members of senior leadership.

For the most part, the National Guard Bureau’s report focused on structural problems. But about 30-pages in, it got about as specific as one could get without giving names. It said the Department of the Army’s Inspector General substantiated a case where “over a period of several years, [an] officer had inappropriately used government vehicles, to include helicopters, for personal use.” It also stated the officer “improperly interrogated a victim of sexual assault and exercised bias in the administration of personnel matters.” In a sidebar next to the account, it mentions that “complaints made against one officer resulted in no administrative action” and that the officer “was awarded the Legion of Merit” upon retirement.

“Oh yeah, he was given a golden parachute.”

Sgt. Melissa Jones says the officer in question is retired Col. Timothy DeHaas. Jones is now in the Illinois National Guard, but she got to know DeHaas when she was serving in Alaska. She says her dealings with him were bad from the start: Her first encounter with him ended in a discrimination complaint, when he would not sign off on her flight paper work.

“He took the request to basically say, ‘Women were most likely to be barefoot and pregnant and taking care of their husbands,’ instead of the other way around,” says Jones.

Later in her guard career, Jones reported she was raped. (While APRN as a policy does not name sexual assault victims, Jones consents to being identified.) Jones alleges that DeHaas found out and violated her confidentiality.

“I came back and everybody in the entire building knew about it,” says Jones.

Jones says she wasn’t the only one who had this experience.

“He had talked about certain victims – naming them by name in staff meetings,” says Jones. “That in itself is a breach of confidentiality.”

She adds that DeHaas encouraged victims to go through the chain of command rather than law enforcement when attacked.

“He demanded – or ordered – that all sexual assaults be filtered through his office after what happened to me,” says Jones.

Ken Blaylock, a former lieutenant colonel in the Guard, also butted heads with DeHaas when it came to sexual assault reporting. In a sworn statement from 2010, Blaylock said that DeHaas explained to him that “talking to [the Anchorage Police Department] has created some unnecessary problems,” something Blaylock reiterated in a letter to Gov. Sean Parnell sent in 2011.

Blaylock believes DeHaas is guilty of other abuses, and that’s what caused the colonel to step down in 2011.

“Six months after it was announced he was going to be the next one-star general, he had a sudden retirement,” said Blaylock in an interview on Tuesday.

In complaints to the Army Inspector General obtained by APRN, anonymous Guardsmen lay out more than a dozen specific concerns about DeHaas. They accuse him of favoritism and nepotism. They allege DeHaas abused the Guard’s travel policy — that he went on a dozen trips in one year that weren’t mission critical and that he would tack on personal travel in the process. On overseas trips, he allegedly forwarded office calls to his BlackBerry, and “thousands of dollars of charges were incurred.”

The complaints also accuse DeHaas of illegally using aircraft. They mention an incident where DeHaas “asked an aircrew to deliver a set of antlers to a friend of his in Idaho” even though the flight was not scheduled to go through the state. They also reference a bear-hunting trip where DeHaas allegedly traveled on a Black Hawk helicopter.

“You’re spending flight hours. The aircraft – the helicopters – have to get required maintenance after a certain amount of hours,” says Blaylock. “There is fuel, which is very expensive. There’s all kind of things that come into play about how you’re basically consuming a finite amount of resources from the military side of the Guard that they cannot spare. That’s supposed to be reserved for training or emergencies or things like that, and he’s basically using it up on his whims.”

DeHaas, who currently manages a smokejumper program for the U.S. Forest Service in Idaho, denied all allegations when called on his cell phone on Wednesday morning.

“They are absolutely false,” said DeHaas. He added he was unfamiliar with the results of the National Guard Bureau report and that he had not been following the events in Alaska before ending the conversation.

The National Guard Bureau was not able to confirm that the substantiated complaints concerning misuse of aircraft referred to DeHaas. Separately, a spokesperson for the Alaska National Guard was not able to say if DeHaas was under further investigation, adding that the Guard is still trying to determine what information on DeHaas can be released.

But because DeHaas’ name comes up in the Inspector General complaints, he became the subject of a press conference mid-day Wednesday.

The newly formed “Veterans for Accountability” – a trio of former Guardsmen — called reporters to a law office to criticize DeHaas’ record. None of the three had ever had any encounters with DeHaas, and only one served in the Alaska National Guard during his tenure. Even so, they said they were angered that DeHaas was allowed to retire at the rank of colonel and that he was awarded the Legion of Merit.

“I find this to be an outrage that somebody involved in these deeds was awarded the state’s highest honors for military service,” said Bruce Dougherty, who retired from the Guard four years ago and most recently ran for Anchorage Assembly.

Misconduct in the National Guard has become a highly politically charged issue, with the results of the federal investigation coming two months before Election Day. Because of this, the press conference organizers were peppered with questions about any political affiliations they might have. They denied any affiliation with the Alaska Democratic Party or the campaign of unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker, who is challenging Republican incumbent Sean Parnell.

“Absolutely not,” reiterated Dougherty, when pressed a third time.

The Office of the Governor is currently reviewing the process by which DeHaas received the Legion of Merit. In a written statement, a Parnell spokesperson explained that the adjutant general of the National Guard “routinely drafts and requests the governor sign Legion of Merit awards for the retirement of senior officers. This particular request was made by General Katkus in 2011 before the governor called for the Office of Complex Investigations to conduct an assessment into allegations of misconduct in the Alaska National Guard.” Parnell’s spokesperson add that the administration appreciated the “Veterans group calling this to our attention and agree with their concerns.”