Guam Lt. Col. makes history as Army War College grad 3

Lt. Col. Esther J.C. Aguigui is shown after receiving her diploma from the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of Guam National Guard

After days of questions, the Guam National Guard on Wednesday confirmed allegations that Lt. Col. Esther Aguigui, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero’s appointee to head the Guam National Guard, had been reprimanded.

However, after a review of the process and the reason behind the issuance of the reprimand, "it was found to have discrepancies, and should not have been issued," stated Maj. Josephine Blas, the Guam National Guard's spokeswoman. The reason for the reprimand hadn't been made public.

With the discrepancies, it was determined that an investigation was warranted by an outside entity, Blas stated.

"Hence the request for (the National Guard Bureau) to conduct the investigation – but the reprimand should have never been issued," Blas added.

Controversy has swirled on the governor's decision to replace Maj. Gen. Roderick Leon Guerrero with Aguigui as the adjutant general of the Guam National Guard.

An apology

On Tuesday evening, the governor's senior adviser for military affairs, former Sen. Carlotta Leon Guerrero, apologized publicly after characterizing the major general's departure from the Guam Guard as a termination.

The governor clarified that the former adjutant general resigned, a few weeks after the governor's office announced Roderick Leon Guerrero would keep his job.

The governor subsequently acknowledged she changed her mind, saying he has a "different vision."

Possible 'collateral damage'

On Wednesday, the major general sent a letter to The Guam Daily Post addressing allegations made in the administration’s transition report – an early version of which was made public. The report makes numerous allegations including low morale, favoritism and sexual harassment in the Guam Guard under the major general's watch.

“I have a determined there is a need to respond to defend the good soldiers, airmen, and civilian employees of our (Guam Guard) because of the weak response by the (Guam Guard) when asked for comments by the media about the transition report,” he wrote. “The focus on a potentially flawed transition report criticizes every level of leadership at the Guard ... The collateral damage or the second and third order of effect of this may impact the morale and performance of our soldiers, airmen, civilians and their families.”

Roderick Leon Guerrero questioned the manner in which information for the report was obtained. 

“If there was no effort to be objective by obtaining an appropriate sample or to develop some sort of selection criteria in selecting individuals i.e. getting soldiers and airmen from the various ranks and various units, the transition report is inherently flawed,” he wrote.

The major general said, when he was the adjutant general, he created a Sexual Assault Review Board, now known as the Case Management Group for Sexual Assault. It is made up of counselors, lawyers, equal opportunity personnel, victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators and behavioral health personnel who meet monthly.

“In the last two years there has been no reported case of sexual assault and one reported case of sexual harassment,” he wrote. “The statistics regarding (sexual assault/sexual harassment) can be obtained from federal reports.”

Regarding morale, the major general pointed out that the Guam Army and Air National Guard has achieved the best retention of the 54 Guard units, demonstrating the desire of members to remain in the Guam Guard.

“If morale was bad, soldiers and airmen would leave the organization in significant numbers,” he said.

He also responded to accusations related to fraternization and promotions. He noted that there are women in leadership positions within the Guard, the numbers for which are proportional to the ratio of women to men in the Guard.  

Breaking his silence

Up until his letter on Wednesday, Roderick Leon Guerrero had remained quiet as controversy grew over his departure from the Guam Guard's top leadership.

At first, he was named an "agent of change" and was called to serve the Leon Guerrero administration as director of the Department of Military Affairs, which meant he would have remained the adjutant general of the Guard.

But then the administration said he was replaced because of the transition report that noted a negative climate in the organization.

Keep moving forward

In the letter, the major general acknowledges the governor's authority to select a leader of the Guam National Guard.

“I have not made any effort to challenge her decision nor am I involved in any movement to question Lt. Col. Aguigui’s qualifications. Gov. Leon Guerrero has the authority and responsibility to select the adjutant general who she trusts and will work well with her vision and administration to grow the (Guam National Guard),” he said.

He also called on the Guard officers and members to continue their hard work. He encouraged them to work with the new adjutant general.

“I ask that you try not to get wrapped up at what’s going with the press coverage regarding the (Guam National Guard). Please continue your great work to grow our National Guard,” he said.

The major general closed with a statement to the governor, saying, “I know I did not meet your expectations of a political appointee – it’s because my duties and responsibilities as a military leader are of greater weight.”

Typically no response

Blas noted in response to questions from the Post that the Guam National Guard doesn’t typically comment on questions regarding personnel issues.

However, she added, “We are responding to clear as much of the record as possible without divulging information considered ‘for official use only.'”