When John McCain announced Sarah Palin as his running mate, the campaign immediately began touting her experience--both foreign and domestic--as "commander-in-chief" of the Alaska National Guard. But the reality of the situation--that Palin actually had little to do with the National Guard quickly became apparent. In fact, the idea was undercut severely by comments made by the actual commander of the Alaska National Guard--its Adjutant General, Major General Craig Campbell. When that happened, it eventually turned into somewhat of a national joke, culminating in the humiliation of McCain/Palin campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds on CNN when he tried to promote Palin's "foreign policy" experience during the Republican National Convention.
It was getting bad for the McCain campaign because they couldn't afford to lose the "experience" argument to the Obama campaign.
But suddenly--and strangely--the commander of the Alaska National Guard, Major General Campbell, changed his story. By the end of the convention, he was praising Palin's experience, talking on TV about how she had taken control of Alaska's National Guard operations and how she was a "great" leader.
Interestingly enough, Palin promoted him with his third star--to the rank of Lieutenant General--only three days later.
Essentially, Campbell had been unhelpful to the campaign at the very least. But all of a sudden he became one of Palin's biggest supporters. And he was then promoted to be one of the two highest-ranking state National Guard officials in the country. See if this timeline is as eyebrow-raising to you as it is to me:
Sunday 31 August 2008: Major General Craig Campbell, Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard, tells the AP that:
he and Palin play no role in national defense activities, even when they involve the Alaska National Guard. The entire operation is under federal control, and the governor is not briefed on situations.
The quote is used against Palin throughout the media for several days.
Wednesday 3 September 2008: Major General Craig Campbell does significantly more damage to Palin's credibility in this piece in the Boston Globe:
And while the Alaska National Guard operates a launch site for a US anti-missile system at Fort Greely, about 100 miles south of Fairbanks, the Alaskan governor is not in the site's chain of command and has no authority over its operations, according to Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard who commands the roughly 3,800 state militia members.
"Our National Guard is basically just like any National Guard," said Maj. Gen. Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard who commands the roughly 3,800 state militia members. Campbell, a native of Springfield, Mass., said by telephone. "You could call [Adjutant General] Joe Carter in Massachusetts and he would say he is organized the same way."
Nor are the recent deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan by the Alaska National Guard under Palin's purview, despite assertions this week by McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds to that effect. "She is head of the National Guard that has been deployed overseas," Bounds said. "That's foreign policy experience."
Campbell also said that Palin has authority over the National Guard's domestic missions -- such as fighting wildfires and rescuing stranded residents, but that she has a limited role in determining how the forces are trained or equipped.
About 75 percent of the Guard's budget, he said, is the purview of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, which is responsible for ensuring the Guard is prepared to be called up by the president in a time of war. Her primary role, he said, is in recruiting National Guard volunteers.
Campbell said he has met with Palin about once a month, but communicates with her by phone and email more frequently. Earlier this week, he noted, she ordered the Air National Guard to fly a planeload of supplies to hurricane victims in the Gulf Coast.
"She is very much engaged in what we are doing and she asks a lot of questions," Campbell said. "Maybe not the most engaged, but definitely engaged.
She is very much involved in ensuring that I am recruiting enough people."
"I'll tell you, in the last few days, I've been watching the press, and I've not been very pleased with what I've been seeing about the chastising of the National Guard by having it diminished by the insinuation that a commander-in-chief of the National Guard doesn't really control the military. The National Guard has 500,000 people in it around this great country, serving in states and overseas. National Guards are state military forces run by governors, and Sarah Palin does it great."
Here's the video:
Monday 8 September: After the weekend--and after his complimentary remarks-- Major General Campbell is promoted within the Alaska National Guard to the rank of Lieutenant General. The promotion is not recognized outside the state of Alaska, but he is promoted with his third star, nonetheless. Here is the release:
For Immediate Release
7 September 2008
Alaska National Guard Adjutant General Promoted
September 8, 2008, Camp Denali , Alaska - Before a formation of Alaska Air and Army National Guard members, the Alaska National Guard's top leader was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General yesterday in front of the Guard's headquarters building on Fort Richardson .
Lt. Gen. ( Alaska ) Craig E. Campbell, the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard and commissioner of the Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, received his third star, signifying Governor Sarah Palin's support of the Guard and her commitment to reinforcing the cooperation between federal and state military assets.
Palin took the opportunity to promote Campbell ahead of any pending emergency that may occur with the upcoming fall storm season. This allows Alaska to have more of a say in times of state disasters.
"This is about Alaskans serving Alaskans. The promotion is a statement that the Alaska National Guard is the state military force responsible for responding to state issues, at the direction of the Governor," Governor Palin said. "The decision to promote the Adjutant General to Lieutenant General is based on a fundamental states'-rights stance, for which Alaska has a strong historical position."
This issue gained momentum with governors following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the Department of Defense pushed a change in federal law that authorized the President of the United States to mobilize National Guard members to federal service in response to emergencies, without the consent of the governor.
The National Governors Association and the Adjutants General Association of the United States were unanimously opposed to this change, and the following year Congress reversed the law. Concurrently, Alaska Statutes were changed to permit the governor to promote the Adjutant General to the state rank of Lieutenant General specifically for state service.
Campbell was pinned with his third star by his daughter Amanda Rauckhorst and wife, Anne Marie Campbell. Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell was also in attendance and spoke on behalf of Gov. Palin about the importance of the Alaska National Guard in securing the state.
"The action of promoting the Adjutant General to Lieutenant General ( Alaska ) in one way serves to strengthen the concept that the federal and state forces are co-equal partners in providing support to the state of Alaska ," Campbell said. "It is also a positive statement by Governor Palin that the Adjutant General, as a senior state official and cabinet member of a state entity, correctly relates to the senior appointed federal officials in Alaska , when supporting the citizens of this great state."
Campbell will only wear the rank of Lieutenant General when he is in service to the state. His federal rank will remain Major General. This state promotion carries no financial benefit to Campbell . When serving in state status, the Adjutant General receives commissioner pay and benefits. When serving in active-duty status (federal), the Adjutant General is paid under the federally recognized rank of Major General.
Campbell now joins the rank of the adjutant general from the Texas National Guard, which currently has a lieutenant general as its top officer. Georgia and Maryland have also had adjutants general as lieutenants general in the past.
If nothing else, this series of events raises serious questions about what's going on. And the media would be wise to probe this further.
Also available at VetVoice
UPDATE: It looks like my link to the press release is now different from the one I received last night. Not sure what's going on here, but I'm looking into it. . . . CORRECTION: The link wasn't changed. I had the wrong link. I've now updated the post with the correct link.
UPDATE II: Whoah. Read this. The plot really thickens now.
Follow Brandon Friedman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BrandonF