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Ex-acting adjutant general to retire from Alaska Guard

JUNEAU, Alaska — Brig. Gen. Leon "Mike" Bridges, who served as acting adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard after the ouster of a former leader, plans to retire on May 1 after he was not chosen to permanently take over the job.

Gov. Bill Walker, who took office in December, recently announced that retired Army Col. Laurie Hummel would be the new adjutant general. Hummel started the job on Thursday.

Bridges said in an interview Wednesday that he applied for the position and considered himself to be a useful soldier and public servant. But he said Walker is commander in chief of the state's military forces and has selected his new leadership team.

Bridges said it's time for him to move on.

Bridges oversaw a transitional period for the Guard. In September, a report on allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard by the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations found victims lacked confidence in the command.

The report, released under then-Gov. Sean Parnell, led to a leadership change that included the ouster of then-adjutant general Thomas Katkus.

The allegations and criticism of the Parnell administration's handling of allegations shadowed last year's gubernatorial race.

Since taking office, Walker's administration has named retired state court judge Patricia Collins as a special investigator to look into allegations of sexual abuse or harassment by National Guard members. Collins also has been asked assess whether allegations were adequately investigated by law enforcement; whether any cases were handled appropriately by prosecutors; and other matters.

Attorney General Craig Richards told the Senate State Affairs Committee on Thursday that Collins will not have subpoena powers because it's a criminal investigation. U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, has written to the inspectors general for the U.S. Defense Department and Army, as well as to the National Guard Bureau, asking that they cooperate with Collins. Richards said he will tell the heads of law enforcement in the state that their cooperation is expected.

Several senators questioned whether the scope of investigation might be too limited. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said mistakes were made in areas that were not criminal, dealing with personnel or other issues. It seems appropriate for the Legislature, in its oversight capacity, to have hearings on structural issues to try to address those and prevent future problems, he said.

Richards said later that the Guard has its own process for looking within and reforming its processes.

Bridges told The Associated Press he feels a corner has been turned, with additional resources and new policies and procedures in place.

There isn't a broken culture within the Guard, he said. However, there were some people who failed to abide by their oath of service, protect good order and discipline, and treat others as they would wish to be treated, he said.

"We didn't have an abandon ship mentality. We had a few folks that needed to move on or transition," he said. "And we've got a few folks who've stepped up, a lot of folks who've stepped up to be part of the transition."

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