If the result of last week’s soap opera in Augusta is that Maine gets to keep its National Guard Army engineer unit, it would be worth the spectacle.

On Tuesday, “National Guard Day” in the Legislature, Gov. Paul LePage kicked off the festivities by firing Brig. Gen. James D. Campbell, the state’s adjutant general, claiming that Campbell had not been “forthright” about his role in a proposed swap of National Guard units with another state, replacing the 133rd Engineer Battalion with an infantry unit.

In his own defense, Campbell said the governor is the one who is bending the truth. The general said he met regularly with LePage over the last year and fully informed him about his plans.

We may never know who’s telling the truth on this one, but the last shot was fired by LePage, who emphatically said through a spokeswoman that any talk about moving the 133rd is a “dead issue.” If that’s the truth, this is a happy outcome for Maine.

MULTIPLE DEPLOYMENTS

The men and women of the 133rd have represented our nation overseas in multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, but most of their service is closer to home.

The Guard unit is part of the state’s emergency management apparatus, protecting lives and property during storms and floods. Through their service, engineer battalion members learn valuable skills that translate well into civilian settings, from municipal public works to construction.

Those in infantry battalions also serve their country, but their contributions don’t translate as seamlessly into the civilian world. Out of concern for state and local budgets, as well as public safety, an engineer unit is what Maine wants.

It does not appear, however, to be what Campbell wanted. According to a series of documents requested and received by the Portland Press Herald, Campbell appears to have initiated the idea of a unit swap with Pennsylvania, bringing the infantry to Maine. Campbell told state officials that he was responding to proposed federal cuts, but the documents show that the exchange was in the works before federal cuts were announced, and, at any rate, border states were not in risk of losing their engineer units.

LePage said that he was supportive of the general until he reviewed documents assembled to comply with the newspaper’s request, in which Campbell and his officers appeared to be gleeful about the opportunity to bring an infantry unit to Maine.

‘HISTORIC MOMENTS’

On Jan. 2, 2014, Campbell’s chief of staff, Col. Jack Mosher, emailed Campbell under the subject heading “Historic Moments,” writing: “As the very real possibility of the plan becoming reality emerges, I have to work very hard to contain my optimism and euphoria. We must continue to keep a very tight lid on this while moving deliberately forward with each action.”

When he saw that moving the unit was Campbell’s desired outcome from the start, LePage made a swift executive decision. Campbell was gone hours before he was supposed to be addressing the Legislature about the state of the Guard.

As often is the case with the governor, we are left wondering what really happened. He says things with conviction even when they are demonstrably untrue. Just a day after firing Campbell, for instance, he passionately denied ever saying that author Stephen King had moved to Florida to avoid Maine income taxes.

“What I said was, Stephen King’s not in Maine right now,” the governor said, in direct conflict with the record.

But this may be one of the times when what the governor does is more important than what he says. His conflict with Campbell about who knew what when may not be unraveled for some time.

But if firing Campbell means that Maine will keep its engineering battalion, we can support the governor’s action enthusiastically.

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