Brig. Gen. James Campbell, adjutant general of the Maine National Guard, appeared Friday morning on WGAN Morning News to again address recent reports that he has been seeking to move the 133rd Engineer Battalion out of Maine.
Speaking with hosts Mike Violette and Dennis Bailey, Campbell reiterated what he said earlier this week – that this discussion has been going on for more than a year and that it has been driven by proposed cuts to the National Guard Bureau.
Asked about the confusion over conflicting stories and explanations from Guard staff and Gov. Paul LePage’s office, Campbell blamed “sensationalist” news coverage.
“Those initial stories were way off the mark,” he said.
Campbell has been under fire for the last month after news broke that he has been seeking to swap the 133rd Engineer Battalion, one of the Guard’s oldest and most storied units, for an infantry unit.
The Guard and LePage have since offered several explanations, first denying that any plan was in the works and blaming others for leaking information, then acknowledging that moving the 133rd was under consideration but only because of federal cuts to the National Guard Bureau proposed by the Obama administration.
Since the Press Herald first reported the general’s plan for the 133rd, several Guard members have contacted the newspaper to say that the environment at Camp Keyes, the Guard headquarters in Augusta, has become “toxic” under Campbell’s leadership.
Campbell addressed that allegation Friday as well and put fault on the media.
“I think if there is any morale issue at headquarters, it has been generated by … unfortunate stories,” he said. “In an organization the size of 3,500 people, anyone is going to be able to find someone to write a contentious email and a handful have done that. I think it’s unfortunate.”
This week, news surfaced that Campbell traveled to Washington, D.C., last summer to make a pitch to swap another unit, the Maine Air National Guard’s 265th Combat Communications Squadron, based in South Portland, for a cyber security unit.
That plan was rejected but sources told the Press Herald that Campbell went to D.C. without the governor’s knowledge.
Campbell was not asked about that claim on Friday and did not address it.
The general, his staff and the Governor’s Office have declined numerous requests for several weeks by the Press Herald to talk directly to Campbell.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or: