January 29, 2020
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Document review: Maine National Guard shakeup plan came from within

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Adjutant Gen. James D. Campbell

Email records from ousted Maine National Guard Adjutant Gen. James D. Campbell regarding the exchange of Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion for an infantry unit reveal the apparent collapse of the transition plan, though some details remain unclear.

Central to the confusion is who knew what and when. As early as November 2013, Campbell detailed his plan to “re-balance” the Maine National Guard force and “reconstitute the historic 1st Battalion, 103rd Infantry Regiment, formerly the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment.”

As that plan developed, however, it was kept under wraps amid concern that presenting it in the wrong way would scuttle the plan.

That sentiment, expressed in an email between Campbell and his chief of staff, Col. J.R. Mosher, came about four months before the plan would be publicized in a story by the Portland Press Herald on April 30, 2014.

Just before, Campbell apparently was preparing to brief public officials on the plan, after frustrations in January about “talking about this except behind closed doors and with a strictly limited circle.”

On April 9, Campbell wrote to Mosher that he “spoke to the Governor and he said go for it,” but he worried there was some political resistance to the plan in the Legislature.

The degree to which the governor was aware of the plan before the story broke April 30 remains unclear from the record. LePage said at the time that he was surprised by the plan, but Maine Army National Guard public affairs officer Maj. Michael Steinbuchel sent the governor’s communications staff a list of talking points as the story broke April 30, 2014.

That came after the plan apparently was reaching a broader audience, starting with the 133rd Engineer Battalion.

Hints of the plan had been made known earlier, particularly as Campbell sought to have improvements at the Brunswick National Guard physical training facility be “branch-neutral,” according to a Jan. 6, 2014, email to Mosher.

While the timing was in question, so was the origin of the plan. Details of the plan from 2013 indicate it was in the works for more than a year before it became known publicly. And an email from Col. Jerry Wood, special assistant to the chief of staff of the Army National Guard, on the day the story broke indicates that the idea for the transfer originated with the Maine National Guard.

But after the story broke, Campbell expressed in a May 5, 2014, email that the plan still could be clarified with the governor’s office.

But the story itself, Campbell feared, was derailing the message he had hoped to deliver about the switch and it needed to be brought back under control.

As of May 5, Mosher said he felt he still had the governor’s support.

But that record would prove wrong. On Tuesday, LePage fired Campbell based partly on a review of the documents collected in response to public records requests for Campbell’s communications.

View the full set of emails provided to the Bangor Daily News in response to a Freedom of Information Act request Wednesday.

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