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Friday, January 28, 2022

Parnell Ignored Guard Sexual Assaults


By J. Pastrick

As a U.S. Army National Guard veteran, I’ve watched with dismay as Gov. Sean Parnell’s administration ignored reports of unpunished sexual assault in the National Guard. The stories sounded all too familiar.

When I was in the Alaska National Guard, sexual harassment was all too common. As the only female recruiter in the Alaska Army National Guard, I was subjected to harassment by my immediate supervisor and two male recruiters to the point where it was intolerable. I reported sexual harassment, and a subsequent investigation confirmed it. However, the harassment did not stop. The “good ol’ boy” system kicked in and little was done to punish the perpetrators.

Sadly, I was not alone. The problems just seems to have gotten worse. It was so bad that in 2010 National Guard chaplains arranged a phone call with Parnell to report abuses and chain of command support for perpetrators. Some of Parnell’s staff now have resigned, but the problems went right to the top, and if Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus and McHugh Pierre had to resign, then Parnell should too.

Think about how bad it had to be for chaplains to take this step. They went far outside the normal channels to report these abuses to the governor because they had concluded that Katkus, Brig. Gen. Mike Bridges, and other high-ranking officials in the chain of command would defend perpetrators rather than punish criminals. Like all whistleblowers, the chaplains took this step at risk to their own careers.

Other whistleblowers and victims followed. Lt. Col. Kenneth Blalock was a whistleblower in Recruitment and Retention — one of the pits of vice in Parnell’s National Guard — and he was retaliated against for speaking out. Blalock held the rank of captain at the time I filed my harassment suit and came to my defense. Unfortunately, he was silenced by threats to his career in 1996. Same with victims Rosa Ralls and Melissa Jones, who told the Alaska Dispatch News about their story back in 2013.

Parnell has said he didn’t know about specific victims or perpetrators. Even if he had not listened to what the chaplains told him over the phone, even if he ignored reports by victims and chaplains to his high-ranking staff, he could have read about it in the newspaper.

For four long years, the sexual assaults and fraud continued as morale in the National Guard declined and Parnell did nothing. The abuse was so bad that other elected officials stepped up. State Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, and U.S. Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski all urged for an investigation into allegations of assault and fraud.

Parnell’s response? He called Katkus and asked how things were going. This was the same Katkus who was defending perpetrators and covering up their crimes.

After the Office of Criminal Investigations report made it impossible for Parnell to deny the depth of corruption, he still didn’t punish Katkus by allowing him to resign. Katkus should have been fired and he should have his military pension taken away. Instead he will retain his lifelong pension and benefits without consequence, at the expense of taxpayers.

Everyone who stood silently by while women were sexually assaulted and taxpayers paid the price should be held accountable. This scandal has been whitewashed by the governor for long enough. Recent news stories even show that Parnell and his administration knew about his appointees’ efforts to protect perpetrators from punishment.

We need to move forward with reforms. I know from my personal experience of being sexually harassed while working as a recruiter in the Army National Guard that the culture needs to change. We need harsh penalties for sexual predators and we need protection for victims. There needs to be a reporting system outside the chain of command, and perpetrators need to be punished. I was retaliated against after serving 19 years in the military for reporting against my chain of command in 1996.

This change will not come easily, but we can make it happen. Let’s not wait another four years while this problem festers under the watch of Parnell and others whose silence enabled more crimes.

It is time to do the right thing and truly support the men and women who have volunteered to shoulder the responsibility of national security. This is how we support the troops.

• J. Pastrick has lived in Alaska for 21 years and prior to enlisting in the Alaska National Guard she served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years. She received an honorable discharge from the Alaska National Guard in 1996. This article is cross-posted at the Juneau Empire.



3 Responses to “Parnell Ignored Guard Sexual Assaults”
  1. juneaudream says:

    Many communitys require the police to wear..when going on duty..a chest/soulder minicam. How soon as a female in service..finds a ‘challenging situation’..the local offices..provide her/him..with a cam. and list it as of the requested? If she has requested the item. news of .it would be..sent to all the upper levels that the word was out! If said denied for ANY REASON..she may take a..leave of abs., until one avail.

  2. mike from iowa says:

    I’d like to apologize to you on behalf of those…uh…. people that pretend to be honorable and upstanding,but,they aren’t real men. Thank you for having the courage to share your story.

  3. Zyxomma says:

    I’m proud that one of my Senators, Kirsten Gillibrand, has tried to end the harassment and rape culture at all levels of the military. Thanks for your post, J. Pastrick.

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