- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker named retired U.S. Army Col. Laurie Hummel as Alaska’s new adjutant general on Friday.

Hummel will be the first woman to lead the Alaska National Guard, Walker’s office said.

There has been a focus on cleaning up the Guard’s culture and restoring confidence in the chain of command following allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within its ranks.

“We need to make sure that we have a moral and ethical climate that is worthy of our membership as military members,” Hummel told reporters in Anchorage, where her appointment was announced.

“There will be no old boys’ network, there will be no old girls’ network,” she said. “There will be a network of the people who are dedicated to achieving the vision of the commissioner and the vision of the governor and moving forward to ensure that we have safety and stability for all Alaskans.”

Improving the culture starts with one set of standards and rules for everyone, regardless of where they are in the chain of command, as well as transparency and communication, she said.

Hummel, who made an unsuccessful run for state House last year, also will serve as commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. The appointment is subject to legislative approval.

Walker also announced the appointment of Robert Doehl as deputy commissioner. Doehl retired as a colonel from the Alaska Air National Guard in 2012 and served as special assistant for military and veterans affairs for U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, Walker’s office said. Begich lost his re-election bid in November.

Brig. Gen. Leon “Mike” Bridges had been serving as acting adjutant general following the ouster of Thomas Katkus last September.

Then-Gov. Sean Parnell asked for Katkus’ resignation as part of a leadership change stemming from a scathing report from the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations that looked into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Alaska National Guard. The report found that victims did not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command.

In recent days, Bridges gave overviews of the department to House committees. On Thursday, he said the state’s military code of justice was antiquated, written before statehood, and lacked any teeth.

Democratic lawmakers have proposed legislation aimed at victims’ rights and clarifying reporting protocols for sexual assaults within the Guard. They also plan to introduce a bill aimed at updating the code.

Walker said the administration would look at the legislation being proposed and decide whether it wants to raise any issues that might need to be addressed legislatively.

The administration previously announced that retired state court judge Patricia Collins would serve as a special investigator, looking at allegations of sexual assault and harassment and determining if the accusations were adequately investigated by law enforcement and handled appropriately by prosecutors. She also has been asked to determine whether cases should be investigated further.

Meanwhile, the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Defense says the focus and intent of a report done at the request of U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was different than that of the Office of Complex Investigations. In a letter to Murkowski, the acting assistant inspector general for the department said Army IG investigators focused on alleged misconduct “by an Alaska National Guard general officer,” while the Office of Complex Investigations’ probe was much broader.

Army IG investigators did not substantiate the allegation it was looking into, and the department’s IG Directorate for Investigations of Senior Officials agreed with the conclusions, the letter states.

Murkowski spokesman Matthew Felling said by email Friday that Murkowski is “wholly dissatisfied with the investigations conducted by two separate entities, where two different assessments of sexual assaults came to widely divergent conclusions.”

He said Murkowski believes an unredacted copy of the IG report would help restore trust and she plans to raise this issue again when senior Pentagon officials come before the Defense Appropriations subcommittee.


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