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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Bill would require 'active' service for adjutant general

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee was the first state adjutant general drawn from the ranks of the Army Reserve, and he may be the last.

Lee, who commands the Hawai'i National Guard, submitted testimony yesterday against a proposed state law requiring the state adjutant to have at least five years of active service as a commissioned officer in the Hawai'i Army or Air National Guard.

The bill was passed by the state House. Lee, as the present adjutant general, would be exempted from the law.

Lee is a member of Gov. Linda Lingle's Cabinet, commands the Hawai'i National Guard, and directs the state Department of Defense, including state Civil Defense.

The way the law is written now, a Hawai'i state adjutant candidate must have held the rank of major and served in one of the U.S. armed services for 10 years.

Under the proposal, career service in the Army Reserve would mean ineligibility for the job.

Lee, in his prepared testimony, noted that the Army Reserve's 100th Battalion, 442nd Infantry has been under the command and control of the 29th Brigade of the Hawai'i Army National Guard since 1968.

"Do we want to tell the citizen soldiers of the famed 100th Battalion that it is OK to go to war with the Hawai'i Army National Guard but you cannot serve at the highest levels in the Hawai'i National Guard?" Lee said.

Lee said lawmakers should not pass legislation that "reduces the pool of qualified candidates for this very important position." Former Gov. John Burns named a retired Air Force three-star general to the post, Lee said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Edward Richardson, a former state adjutant, testified in February in favor of the change, saying 44 of 50 states require National Guard experience for an adjutant general.

State Rep. Kirk Caldwell, D-24th (Manoa), said retired Guard members argued there is a morale problem with the system now.

"The people who come up through the Guard are able to head up the Guard, and yet, what happens is you bring in people from other branches of the military," Caldwell said. "They said: 'How would you feel if you were working your way up the ladder, putting in your time, and somehow, they felt the people that come from your organization are not qualified?' "

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.