The Anchorage Daily News published an article by George Bryson on September 3, 2008, in which Alaska Governor Sarah Palin’s actual experience in commanding the Alaska National Guard is examined.
When presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate last Friday, the Arizona senator emphasized her role as the commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard.
Later, when questions were raised about Palin’s lack of experience in national and international affairs, the McCain campaign pointed again to her military command experience as governor. Some reporters have tried to follow up.
“Can you tell me one decision that she made as commander in chief of the Alaska National Guard?” CNN journalist Campbell Brown asked Monday while interviewing McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds. “Just one?”
Bounds couldn’t, because Palin has never personally ordered the state guard to do anything.
However, the governor has no command authority overseas or anywhere in the United States other than Alaska, said Maj. Gen. Craig Campbell, the service commander of the Alaska National Guard.
“When members of the National Guard are federalized, they work for the president,” Campbell said Wednesday. “It’s not just overseas. They could be federalized to go to other states or they could even be federalized in the state.”
Occasions in which Palin retains command authority over the 4,200-member Alaska National Guard are whenever the Guard responds to in-state natural disasters and civic emergencies, said Campbell, who also serves as the commissioner of the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
“We’ve deployed individuals in state service all over the state under Sarah Palin,” he said. “We had defense men down in Seward for the (Mount) Marathon run doing security.
“Out west and northwest we had erosion problems, and the National Guard was involved in some of the protection out there. About three days ago, the Army National Guard picked up a lady from Little Diomede (Island) . . . at the request of state troopers.”
Did Palin directly approve each of those activities?
No, Campbell said. The governor has granted him the authority to act on his own in most cases, including life-or-death emergencies – when a quick response is required – and minor day-to-day operations.
“Some authorities have been given to me that she has acknowledged that I can execute,” he said. “For others I have to ask her each time.”
The recent decision to deploy a C-17 cargo plane from the Alaska Air National Guard to Louisiana to assist during the Hurricane Gustav response was an occasion in which Campbell briefed the governor’s office and sought its approval, he said. Chief of Staff Mike Nizich signed off on it.