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Updated May 2, 2013 - 7:04 pm

Arizona National Guard probe finds discipline issues

PHOENIX — An investigation into a years-long series of misconduct and
leadership problems at the Arizona National Guard found the improper acts were
investigated but disciplinary action by commanders was spotty and inconsistent
and some cases went unpunished or uninvestigated, including sexual assault
cases.

The report done by the federal National Guard Bureau was released Thursday by
Gov. Jan Brewer’s office. The governor asked for the investigation after The
Arizona Republic published a series of stories last year exposing years of
misconduct by Arizona military personnel and raising questions about the Guard’s
leadership and culture. Allegations of wrongdoing included sexual abuses,
drunken driving, narcotics trafficking, embezzlement, retaliation against
whistle-blowers and abuses of power.

The report generally found the allegations reported by the Republic occurred
and were mostly swiftly and effectively addressed. In some cases, the report
found, punishment didn’t follow military or state guidelines and was
inconsistently administered.

The Guard investigation also uncovered additional misconduct “along the same
lines” and said many members of the Guard who were caught were simply allowed
to resign from active duty jobs, while retaining their rank and not receiving
any blemish on their military records.

That was especially true of senior officers, some of whom were not subject to
discipline because they were within two years of retirement.

The report also disclosed that the FBI continues to investigate allegations of
fraud against member of the 214th Reconnaissance Group, part of a Tucson-based
Air National Guard F-16 fighter wing. Those allegations weren’t investigated
further because the FBI warned it might interfere with its investigation.

Fraternization was rampant in some commands, according to the report. While
sexual assault cases involving military members were turned over to local law
enforcement, some cases went nowhere, even though they met internal Defense
Department investigation standards.

“Identified victims of sexual assault and harassment stated that they had been
victimized twice: once by the perpetrator and by the leadership that was unable
to address their needs.

Brewer said in a lengthy statement accompanying the release of the report that
“it is clear that the Arizona National Guard is not `broken.”’

“The findings are not an indictment of the Arizona National Guard, nor its
leadership,” Brewer said. “In fact, the Report states that `all of the
misconduct brought to the attention of the leadership of the Arizona National
Guard was investigated and addressed in accordance with Arizona administrative
polices . overall the Arizona National Guard attempted to address misconduct
when it occurred.”

Nonetheless, she continued, “significant concerns were identified, and they
will be remedied.”

The incidents occurred between 2005 and 2012. But the report said the biggest
problems occurred prior to 2010, when they were “at times hindered by instances
of retaliation, reprisal and, in some cases, allegations of obstruction by
personnel in the chain of command.”

The Republic series that prompted the report exposed a checkerboard of
corruption that included sexual abuse and harassment, embezzlement, forgery,
drug smuggling, firearms violations and whistleblower retaliation.

The governor’s letter said the Guard commander, Maj. Gen. Hugo Salazar, has
made progress addressing the issues since he was appointed in 2009 and earlier
this year issued a new ethics code.

The Guard includes nearly 5,200 Army and about 2,500 Air Force members, many on
permanent duty.

The report recommends a series of steps, including improving the disciplinary
system, holding ethics and leadership training, and improving response to
complaints of sexual assault and harassment.

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