A recent federal investigation documented a whole host of abuses in the Alaska National Guard, ranging from mishandling of sexual assault to embezzlement. While the report largely focused on structural problems and took a broad look at the crisis of confidence in Guard leadership, it made a few references to some particularly egregious examples. Now, some of the alleged perpetrators of those abuses are being called out.
TOWNSEND: Since the National Guard Bureau report came out, Parnell has asked for the resignations of his Adjutant General Thomas Katkus and Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre. But the abuses weren’t limited to those two men. Can you tell us a bit about the new players in the Guard crisis?
GUTIERREZ: The federal investigation really raised more questions than it answered, and one of the most attention-grabbing sections refers to a senior officer who retired with high military honors. The report says this officer, who was awarded the Legion of Merit, improperly interrogated a sexual assault victim. The report also says that he took helicopters out for personal reasons and that the Department of the Army Inspector General was able to substantiate this. While the National Guard Bureau wasn’t able to confirm that this section of the report refers to Col. Timothy DeHaas, the details are identifying enough that they single him out, and whistleblowers have corroborated that he’s the man in question.
TOWNSEND: What allegations have these whistleblowers made about DeHaas?
GUTIERREZ: It’s some pretty shocking stuff. I spoke with Sgt. Melissa Jones, who is now serving in Illinois but who says she was raped while in the National Guard, about Dehaas and she had harsh words for him. While Jones is now publicly identifying herself as a sexual assault survivor, she says she was trying to keep the matter private when it happened to her and that DeHaas violated her confidentiality.
She also says that DeHaas wanted victims to come to him instead of going to law enforcement first.
A flight chief I spoke to, who doesn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal, said that he inappropriately used aircraft on more than one occasion and gave an account of DeHaas taking a Black Hawk helicopter out on a bear hunt.
Ken Blaylock, who was a lieutenant colonel with the National Guard and one of the original whistleblowers who went to Sean Parnell, also suggested that DeHaas may have been involved in the illegal smuggling of AK47s from Iraq, and that he tipped off soldiers when investigators were going to catch them.
It the sort of stuff that would sound completely crazy if the Office of Complex Investigations Report didn’t suggest there was merit to these claims.
TOWNSEND: Today, there was a press conference that was specifically focused on DeHaas. Who was involved and what are they asking for?
GUTIERREZ: The press conference was called by three people with Guard experience, but none of them had actually interacted with DeHaas. Bruce Dougherty retired from the Guard four years ago, but he said he only learned of the abuses after his retirement because he was in the medical section and not really involved with what happened at headquarters. Kevin McGee, who also heads up the NAACP served in the Guard for eight years, but retired long before any of the current leadership came into power. And the third person, Shaina Kilcoyne, was with the National Guard in Wisconsin. Because none of them really had any personal connections with the stuff documented in the OCI report and because this issue has become so politically charged, there were a lot of questions about their motives, and if they had any connections to the Democratic Party or the Bill Walker campaign. They said they didn’t but that they do want to take the Governor to task for his response to this. They basically want him to acknowledge he was wrong to award the Legion of Merit to DeHaas. For its part, the Governor’s office is saying that’s it’s pretty routine for that award to be giving to someone of DeHaas’ rank at retirement.
TOWNSEND: And you talked to DeHaas today. What is he doing now and what is his response to these allegations?
GUTIERREZ: He’s still working for the federal government. He’s with the Forest Service in Idaho, and working with the smokejumpers program. He denies all of the allegations.
TOWNSEND: Do we know if any further investigations of him are being done?
GUTIERREZ: I didn’t get an answer from the Guard on that, and usually when investigations are happening, they won’t confirm they’re happening even if they are. And that’s actually one of the big tensions with all of this. There are so many questions that are in the public interest to address that came up with the OCI report. And usually when there are reports of wrongdoing or criminal activity, there’s a standard process for having information put out there while justice is served in a responsible and deliberate way. But in this case, it’s taken so long for allegations to be taken seriously that people are angry and want answers now.