- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - Gov. Paul LePage on Tuesday fired the officer who has led Maine National Guard for more than two years, saying he lost faith in the adjutant general’s ability to lead the state’s servicemen and women.

The announcement that LePage had relieved Brig. Gen. James Campbell of his command came moments before Campbell was scheduled to address a joint session of the House and Senate in the annual “State of the Guard” speech.

LePage provided few details on the reason for Campbell’s firing. His administration refused to make the Republican governor available for questions and canceled a news conference that had been scheduled for Tuesday on a separate topic.

“Based on an internal review of General Campbell, I have lost faith in his ability to lead Maine’s soldiers and airmen who serve so proudly in the National Guard,” LePage said in a statement. He later swore in Brig. Gen. Gerard F. Bolduc, commander of the Maine Air National Guard, as interim adjutant general.

Campbell didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on his firing that The Associated Press left with Maine National Guard headquarters staff.

Democratic Rep. Mick Devin and Republican Rep. Sheldon Hanington, co-chairmen of the Legislature’s Veterans Caucus, said in a joint statement that they did not have all the facts but were “profoundly concerned” by the governor’s announcement.

Assistant House GOP Leader Ellie Espling of New Gloucester said Republicans would “reserve judgment and any further comment” until the details of Campbell’s firing come to light.

LePage is the “commander in chief of the Maine National Guard and at the end of the day, this is his decision to make,” Espling said.

Campbell became the 39th adjutant general of the National Guard and commissioner of the Department of Defense, Veterans and Emergency Management in August 2012. Before that, he was deputy chief of the Operations Plans Division at the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Florida. The Colby College graduate began his military career as a U.S. Army infantry officer before joining the Maine National Guard in 1995.

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation raised concerns last year after the Portland Press Herald reported that Campbell was nearing the final stages of a plan to send the battalion to Pennsylvania and replace it with an infantry unit. The reorganization was expected to reduce the overall number of soldiers, currently at about 2,100.

LePage and Campbell criticized the media for characterizing the change as a done deal. The governor said in May that Congress was studying staffing levels and reassignment of units like the Maine Army National Guard but that a decision was likely two or three years away.

LePage said Bolduc will remain as interim adjunct general until he finds a replacement. Bolduc said in a statement that he was honored to be named to the post.

“I want the citizens of Maine to know that the Maine National Guard, despite any changes, will remain trained and fully prepared to respond to any of the state and nation’s needs,” he said.

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Follow Alanna Durkin at https://www.twitter.com/aedurkin


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