March 7, 2003 – A full-page advertisement headlined "An Open Letter to Governor Charles W. Turnbull" in the V.I. Daily News last Monday accused leaders of the V.I. National Guard of abusing their authority and endorsing discrimination and harassment. The "letter" was signed only as being from "The Members and Families for a Better Guard."
Most of the criticism in the advertisement was directed at Adj. Gen. Cleave McBean, commanding officer of the National Guard in the territory. Under his leadership, it said, "the members of the V.I. National Guard have dealt with declining morale and the potential for mass exodus if something isn't done soon."
It claimed that the VING has the highest complaint rate in the nation and that McBean "hardly shows up for work" and "refuses to address our issues."
The advertisement also charged that local guard units are "unready" to be called to active duty, should the United States declare war on Iraq. And, it said, some guard members will not participate in the defense of their country if "something isn't done soon."
"The guardsmen will not play a part, not because they are afraid of conflict, but because they can no longer see the point in serving if you, governor, don't act soon," the letter said.
On Tuesday, VING officials issued a response to the letter in the form of a press release, encouraging the complainant to follow protocol for handling his or her concerns.
"This organization will not respond publicly to accusations from nameless and faceless individuals who may be disgruntled and do not have the good of the organization at heart," the release stated.
Osbert Potter, V.I. National Guard public affairs officer, dismissed the ad on Friday as the work of "just someone being grumpy." He said he believes it represents "only one or two individuals who may have problems with specific decisions" made by McBean.
The release did respond, however, to the accusations that the territory's guard units are not prepared to go to war, should they be called up. It said that VING members hone their skills once a month at weekend drills and during a yearly two-week training period. When mobilized to active duty, members of the local guard, like those anywhere else, are deployed to a mobilization station where they are re-evaluated as to their readiness.
Guard members already have been sent to participate in Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, parts of the Bush administration's War against Terror.
"We might have to send some more sometime soon," Potter said. He said local guard officials don't want parents, family and friends, based on the ad, "to believe the guard may not be ready."
The statement said that McBean "remains proud of the VING's record of providing properly trained soldiers whenever they have been called to active duty, now and in the past."
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