Responding to issues raised in a series of articles recently published in the Portland Press Herald, the head of Maine's National Guard today attempted to set the record straight in an email to soldiers and their families. Brig. Gen. James Campbell said he would not address the specific allegations in the published reports except for one: the possible relocation of the 133rd Engineer Battalion from Maine. Susan Sharon reports.
In the email, released through the office of Gov. Paul LePage, Brig. Gen. Campbell makes it perfectly clear in bold type:
"There has been no decision to move the 133rd Engineer Battalion from Maine," he writes. "Some contingency planning has occurred, including this possibility. Unfortunately, those plans have been falsely portrayed in the media as a 'done deal.'"
Campbell goes on to say that "as military professionals we must hope for the best and plan for the worst."
The relocation of the 133rd engineers to another state, in exchange for a new and smaller infantry unit to Maine, was first raised in a published report last month. Staffers from Congresswoman Chellie Pingree's office were also briefed on the plan by Guard officials from Maine around the same time, according to her spokesman.
Since then, neither Gen. Campbell nor any other Guard leaders have spoken publicly on the issue. Last month the Guard called and then abruptly canceled a news conference without explanation. A call seeking comment for this story was not returned by airtime.
Members of Maine's congressional delegation have expressed concerns about moving the battalion, which includes 500 men and women. And the suggestion has met strong resistance from Gov. Paul LePage, commander in chief of the Maine National Guard who was apparently caught off guard by the plan, and who has said it will not happen without his approval.
In his email, Gen. Campbell says that if such a change occurs, nobody from Maine will be required to transfer out of state.
"We have been asked to examine this possibility," Campbell writes, "not execute it." But he also warns that the National Guard Bureau has directed all states to participate in a process to rebalance units in the event Congress approves massive cuts to the overall Defense Department budget.
Earlier this year, Gov. LePage joined 49 other governors in expressing their opposition to proposed cuts to the Army National Guard. A spokeswoman for the governor says her boss has scheduled a meeting with Gen. Campbell later this week.