To clean up Alaska National Guard, we need a new governor

I lost a part of myself during my time in the Alaska National Guard, and it wasn’t due to my time served in a combat zone — it was unfortunately due to a complete failure of leadership. When I was sexually assaulted, the National Guard leadership didn’t try to investigate or prosecute the criminal, or provide support. Instead, the guard leadership violated my confidentiality and humiliated me in front of fellow guard members. I wish I had been the only one, but I wasn’t.

I’m tired of claims that anyone is using the Alaska National Guard scandal for their own political agenda. This is the same excuse that the corrupt guard leaders used for years to ignore reports of sexual assault while defending perpetrators. I have no interest in which political party is elected, but like so many soldiers and airmen, I do want to help clean up the guard.

It is not easy to report a sexual assault under public scrutiny. I chose to come forward recently due to my realization that what happened to me was not an isolated incident, but a pattern of behavior that would grow to become monstrous. I speak out for the guard because criminals have tarnished its reputation and we need to punish those criminals so we can restore the guard’s honor.

I’ve had victims tell me they are still not willing to come forward even in light of the investigations and media, due to many conspirators still serving in leadership positions. I’ve been told they are still “terrified.”

The Alaska National Guard is not corrupt in its entirety. There are many great soldiers, airmen and leaders, they just need the opportunity to shine and do great things. This is where our involvement and, dare I say, political agendas, should be made known and put into action. We rely on our military to protect us in times of war and national crisis. Alaska citizens are currently being given the opportunity to repay the favor by casting a vote to clean up the guard.

I ask you to “Stand with the Guard.”

Protect your soldiers and airmen; the people who fight for you every day need your help. They need you to stand up and take action, not to sit idly by and silently, not to only give words of support. This upcoming election gives you the opportunity to let your collective voice be heard. Not based on your party affiliation, but based on providing your guardsmen with a safer environment in which to serve your state.

I hope Nov. 4 will stand for the beginning of change and much-needed reform to an environment of fear, corruption, and complacency. There is much to be done in assisting your guardsmen and many more changes that need to be made. Why would we rely on someone that has ignored complaints for so long, supported the same corrupt leaders for years, all the while making false statements that he lacked “specific” information?

For years, Parnell ignored reports of corruption and sexual assault as both individuals like me and the guard itself were victimized by criminals. We should be actively pursuing a set of policies to clean up the Alaska National Guard. This is “political” only in the sense that November’s election is a chance to pick a leader of the guard — a governor — who finally will root out corruption and allow the many honorable members of the guard to once again be proud of the organization that they serve in.

Let’s start restoring the honor of the Alaska National Guard by electing a new governor.

Melissa Jones was an Alaska National Guard member who decided to go public with her account of sexual assault and the subsequent lack of response by guard leadership. 

The views expressed here are the writer’s own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.