Less than a month after becoming Wisconsin’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Paul Knapp has fired the leader of Milwaukee-based 128th Air Refueling Wing.
Wisconsin Air National Guard Col. James V. Locke was relieved because of “lost confidence in his ability to command,” according to a press release issued Thursday.
Locke was fired because of “alleged misconduct” and “poor judgment,” though the Guard did not release specifics.
“A decision like this is never easy to make, but it is the right thing to do and is in the best interest of the organization,” Knapp said in a statement.
A commander-directed probe will further investigate Locke’s actions.
Col. Shawn Gaffney, the unit’s vice commander since 2017, will be the interim leader of the 128th until a new commander is chosen. Gaffney has served in the unit many years as a KC-135 pilot, instructor pilot and flight commander with 4,200 flying hours, including more than 600 hours flying combat missions.
Based at Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport, the 128th Air Refueling Wing flies 10 KC-135 Stratotanker refueling planes. The unit has about 900 people.
“The men and women that make up the 128th Air Refueling Wing are exceptional at what they do,” Knapp said, “and they deserve the type of leadership that will meet the unique needs and challenges of our state and federal missions.”
Locke joined the 128th in March 2000 and steadily worked his way up the command structure with stints as chief of safety and commanding the maintenance and operations groups. He earned his commission in 1989 after graduating from the Air Force ROTC program at California State University in Sacramento.
Knapp was named head of the Wisconsin National Guard last month, replacing disgraced former adjutant general Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, who resigned in December over his mishandling of sexual assault allegations in the Guard. Before Dunbar was named adjutant general in 2007, he commanded the 128th Air Refueling Wing for two years.
Dunbar’s resignation was prompted by a damning National Guard Bureau report that revealed the Wisconsin National Guard ignored Department of Defense rules for conducting sexual assault investigations and did not track or report data on sexual assaults even though it is required by the federal government. The investigation also found that the Wisconsin National Guard did not sufficiently fund or staff sexual assault training programs.
Last month, Gov. Tony Evers appointed Knapp, an Antigo native who now lives in Whitefish Bay, to lead the Wisconsin National Guard.
Within weeks of Knapp’s appointment, the National Guard mobilized around 300 soldiers and airmen to help with the coronavirus pandemic including sending medics to a Grafton nursing home where 13 people have tested positive and sending soldiers to Volk Field to drive Wisconsin cruise passengers under quarantine in California to their homes.
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