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Wisconsin Guard leader to make changes after assault probe

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The head of the Wisconsin National Guard said Monday that he intends to follow the recommendations made after an investigation into reports of sexual assault and harassment.

Major General Don Dunbar was briefed Saturday on the probe by the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations.

“We intend to implement all of the recommendations,” Dunbar said.

The Guard has been shaken by recent allegations of officers brushing off sexual-assault complaints and retaliating against victims for reporting incidents. Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin requested the federal investigation, the results of which were presented to Dunbar on Saturday. Evers got the report on Nov. 25.

In a Jan. 25, 2018 file photo, Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar welcomes home approximately 75 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers from the 1st Battalion,147th Aviation during a ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Madison, Wis. Dunbar says all recommendations made following an investigation into multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment will be implemented. Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar says in a statement Monday, Dec. 9, 2019 that he was briefed on results of the investigation on Saturday. Gov. Tony Evers and U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin requested the probe by the National Guard Bureau's Office of Complex Investigations. Dunbar says his team is in the process of reviewing the report and “we intend to implement all of the recommendations.” (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

Maj. Gen. Don Dunbar welcomes home about 75 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers from the 1st Battalion,147th Aviation during a ceremony at the Army Aviation Support Facility in Madison in 2018. Dunbar says all recommendations made following an investigation into multiple reports of sexual assault and harassment will be implemented. (Amber Arnold/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

The allegations came to light in November 2018 when Master Sgt. Jay Ellis told Baldwin about half a dozen incidents of sexual assault or harassment within his 115th Fighter Wing security squadron, complaining officers had done little in response. Ellis wrote in a letter to Baldwin that the tendency in his unit is to treat sexual misconduct as “no big deal.”

That letter spurred a U.S. Air Force investigation that’s still underway.

State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who is running for Congress in 2020, asked Dunbar in February for a top-to-bottom review of Guard protocols for handling sexual-assault complaints. Dunbar refused to start such a probe, instead outlining the protocols in a letter to Fitzgerald and stressing that the Guard has “zero tolerance” for sexual misconduct.

Fitzgerald was less than pleased with that response, and questioned whether the Guard follows its own policies.

Evers and Baldwin asked the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., to start the review in March. The bureau complied, beginning a review through its Office of Complex Investigations. Evers said he received a briefing on the findings on Nov. 25 but that he wanted to discuss the report with Dunbar before releasing it to the public. Evers planned to brief Fitzgerald and other legislative leaders Monday on the findings.

Ellis, the whistleblower who brought the sexual assault complaints to light, alleged in May that his commanders were trying to discharge him over trumped-up medical issues so he would be denied retirement benefits. Dunbar started an investigation into Ellis’ allegations, one that is still taking place. A medical review board last week found Ellis fit and said he could return to full duty.

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