MADISON, Wis. (AP) — U.S. Air Force investigators have rejected a Wisconsin National Guard sergeant's allegations that his commanders retaliated against him and tried to force him out of the service after he complained about sexual assaults in his unit.
The Secretary of the Air Force Inspector General's office notified Master Sgt. Jay Ellis last Wednesday that investigators deemed his allegations unsubstantiated. It concluded that the actions were taken months after Ellis raised the sexual assault complaints, some of his commanders weren't aware of the complaints and that the ones who were followed protocol.
Ellis said in an email to The Associated Press on Saturday that he plans to retire in December, but that he was “shocked and deeply disappointed” with the report's conclusions.
“I didn’t see anywhere in the report where the intent behind these actions was questioned or explained and that’s really what reprisal is about, intent, right?" Ellis said. “It’s like cops investigating themselves.”
Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Joe Trovato said the Guard takes reprisal complaints seriously. Ellis' allegations were investigated and the Guard considers his case closed, he said.
Ellis wrote to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin in November 2018 saying he knew of at least six instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault against female members of the 115th Fighter Wing's Security Forces Squadron. The complaint sparked a federal investigation that determined Guard commanders were improperly launching in-house sexual assault investigations rather than referring complaints to military criminal investigators as required by federal law and Department of Defense policy. The findings drove the Guard's top commander, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, to resign in December.
Ellis began filing complaints in May 2019 alleging that Guard officials were retaliating against him for blowing the whistle.
He alleged that his commanders began a review of his medical history in November 2018 and exaggerated a chronic foot problem in hopes of getting him discharged and denying him retirement benefits. A medical review board ruled him fit for duty in December 2019.
He also alleged that he was placed on administrative duty, stripped of his authority to carry a weapon and forced to use a locker room for lower-ranking officers.
The Air Force Inspector General's office assigned the Kansas National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing to investigate Ellis' allegations. That unit produced a 37-page report that takes his allegations apart, one by one.
The report said Guard officials had been considering a review of Ellis' medical history as early as September 2018. At least one commander testified that she had no knowledge of the sexual assault complaints until November 2018.
As for the transfer to administrative duty, commanders decided to transfer him to protect him from a “hostile climate" in the security squadron. The report notes that Ellis testified the re-assignment was a mutual decision.
The report also concluded that Ellis was placed on a “no-arm” list because he was taking an anti-depressant that required a 90-to 120 day “stabilization period” to make sure the medicine didn't cause any adverse effects. He was placed on the no-arm list two months after he raised the sexual assault complaints, the report added.
As for moving him into a new locker room, the report found that when Ellis was transferred to administrative duty they had to give Ellis' locker to his replacement in the security squadron. His new locker was in a locker room for all male non-commissioned officers and the move was made five months after Ellis made the sexual assault complaints, the report concluded.
The commanders' names were redacted.
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