Walsh a Leader Who Fought Gender Discrimination in the Guard

When we see the political attack ads on TV, we’re frustrated by the cheap shots money can buy

By Nikki DeWolf & Sergeant Kelly Gallinger

We aren’t politicians and we don’t like politics. However, we served in the Montana National Guard, and we can’t stay silent while the Guard and one of our own is attacked.

Before John Walsh became our U.S. Senator, he led the Montana National Guard as adjutant general. His decorated 33-year record includes a Bronze Star for his leadership in combat in Iraq, where he led the largest deployment of the Montana National Guard since World War II.

We both worked closely with John, and he was an important force for change when we experienced the discrimination women in the military face.  He promoted me, Nikki DeWolf, to colonel, only the second woman in the history of the Montana Army National Guard to hold that position.

While the Armed Forces have a lot of progress to make when it comes to making sure women are treated equally, John was one of the leaders in that fight. John stood up to make sure women received the same opportunities given to men.

We know better than anyone that there is still work to be done when it comes to promoting and treating women equally in the military – but John was one of the leaders who fought gender discrimination.

He stood up to senior male officers who broke the rules. In one of his first acts as head of the Guard, John fired an assistant adjutant general for engaging in an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.

John also led from the front and put the wellbeing of the women and men in the Guard above all else. When he returned from a year in Iraq, John volunteered for a position with the National Guard Association of the United States – the oldest military association in the country that fights for better equipment for the National Guard.

You see, in Iraq, the active duty Army got the best of what’s out there and the Montana National Guard was left with substandard vehicles. One Montana guardsman was paralyzed. Four others were killed.

So when we see the political attack ads on TV, we’re frustrated by the cheap shots money can buy. We’re disappointed that a person who sincerely fought to make the Guard better is a target of misleading and false attacks.

Some of the attack ads claim John took action for “personal gain,” but his volunteer position got results and the National Guard is getting the funding it needs to pay for the equipment we deserve.

It’s especially upsetting given that Congressman Steve Daines – the man behind the attacks – has a questionable record of supporting both veterans and women.

He voted against $44 billion in funding for VA medical services and opposed efforts to end the disability compensation backlog. He blocked a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure women receive equal pay for equal work.

We agree it’s important to hear from those who want to help us strengthen the Montana National Guard, but we cannot let misleading attacks go without a response.

It’s just too difficult to stand by as the reputation of a good man, and a good soldier, whose 33 years of service to this country is being called into question.

Colonel (Ret.) Nikki DeWolf
Sergeant (Ret) Kelly Gallinger

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