The commander of the scandal-plagued California National Guard steps down

The head of the California National Guard, who has overseen a string of scandals over the past 3½ years, will retire at the end of the month, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office confirmed Monday.

Maj. Gen. David Baldwin’s departure follows an investigation by The Times last month that detailed recent embarrassing episodes for the Guard, including allegations among officer ranks of abuse of office, homophobia, anti-Semitism and racism.

Baldwin, who has led the Guard as Adjutant General since 2011 and reports to Newsom, did not respond to a request for an interview. After Newsom’s office confirmed to The Times that Baldwin would step down, the governor issued a statement Monday night thanking the general “for his steadfast leadership and nearly four decades of dedicated service to our state and nation.”

The statement also credited Baldwin with “urging much-needed reforms to transform the organization’s culture and better serve Californians,” and said he was instrumental in the Guard’s efforts to train Ukrainian forces and this to provide protective equipment and medical supplies to the country.

Newsom’s office said Maj. Gen. Matthew Beevers, who is on Baldwin’s leadership team, will succeed him as deputy aide general and “the governor will consider appointing an aide general.” Beevers did not respond to a request for comment.

The 20,000-strong Guard, a division of the California Department of Defense that the Adjutant General also heads, serves a dual mission that includes responding to state emergencies such as earthquakes, wildfires and civil unrest, as well as assisting U.S. forces in military operations overseas .

Upheaval has marked Baldwin’s tenure since early 2019, when a Times report revealed internal grievances about whistleblower reprisals and allegations of the cover-up of misconduct by the organization’s leadership. The complaints centered on the Guards Air Force Base in Fresno and included one incident in which someone urinated into the boots of a female guard. Baldwin later removed the commander of the Air Force side of the Guard, Maj. Gen. Clay Garrison. The commander of the Fresno base’s 144th Fighter Squadron was also removed.

In 2020, in response to another Times report, the Newsom office condemned the Guard’s decision to send a military spy plane to the suburb of El Dorado Hills, where Baldwin lived, to help civilian authorities stop demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd to be monitored by the police. Baldwin said the fact that he resides in El Dorado Hills, where the protests are small and peaceful, does not affect the use of the RC-26B reconnaissance aircraft.

Last year, Baldwin fired Garrison’s successor, Maj. Gen. Gregory Jones, and suspended Brig. Gen. Gen. Jeffrey Magram on salary as director of the air staff, reassigning him to human resources and humanitarian duties. These actions followed a report in The Times that Guards members were concerned their superiors had been preparing an F-15C fighter jet in 2020 for a possible mission in which the plane would fly low over civilian protesters to scare them and to disperse. Baldwin denied the jet had been prepared for such a mission, saying the moves against Jones and Magram were unrelated to the report.

Magram, who was a member of Baldwin’s inner circle, is among officials involved in the recent turmoil.

According to interviews and a confidential report obtained by The Times, the US Air Force Inspector General against Magram investigated complaints that he broke government rules by taking his mother on a shopping spree from subordinates, running other personal errands for him and part had cybersecurity training done. The investigation resulted in a warning letter for Magram, the guard told the newspaper.

However, after further inquiries from the Times, the guard said a second investigation into Magram by a state inspector general had substantiated similar allegations against him and he was awaiting another round of disciplinary action.

The Times also reported that an internal investigation backed claims that Brig. Gen. David Hawkins made anti-Semitic and homophobic slurs, including that Jews are unrepentant sinners and that gay marriage is a reason terrorists attack the United States. Hawkins was then reprimanded, the guard said. In response to a later query from the Times, the Watch confirmed last month that Hawkins had resigned.

Hawkins told the Times that “these allegations are largely false,” and he specifically denied making the allegation about terrorist attacks. He said he believed the allegations were made by someone who overheard and misinterpreted a conversation with a cleric.

Meanwhile, Col. Jonathan Cartwright, a Guard Treasury officer who was a candidate for general, was arrested in March on suspicion of exposing himself to three women at a restaurant in Arlington County, Virginia. Police booked Cartwright on a misdemeanor, but the case was dismissed Monday for lack of evidence, according to his attorney Karin Porter.

“He was falsely accused,” Porter said.

An attempt to reach the prosecutor’s office late Monday was unsuccessful.

Interviews and Guard records reviewed by The Times show that other alleged wrongdoings that took place under Baldwin’s guard include:

– A captain reportedly called a Latino sergeant a “lazy Mexican” and harassed an African-American soldier because he was a “Black Lives Matter guy”. Another captain was accused of asking a Jewish soldier if cigar ash was his “relatives.” Both captains allegedly falsified the physical fitness certificates of watch members.

– A squadron commander on the Guards Air Force side is facing complaints that she used a military credit card to purchase cleaning supplies for her dog and had subordinates walk the pet on the job.

– The squadron deputy commander at the same air station received house arrest for a drunk driving arrest.

All of these matters have been the subject of internal investigations, a spokesman for the guard said. The status of the inquiries could not be determined on Monday.

Current and former Guard members have blamed Baldwin for what they believe is a widespread perception within the organization that senior officers who engage in abusive and unethical behavior are protected from significant discipline.

“It’s a great thing that Baldwin is gone,” said Dan Woodside, a former Guard major who has publicly criticized the organization’s leadership. “He’s been there too long and now there’s not enough cover for those other commanders.”

Baldwin has refused to shield commanders from discipline. In an earlier statement to The Times, he said: “The bottom line is that we have an effective system that deals with allegations of improper conduct.” The commander of the scandal-plagued California National Guard steps down

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