HELENA – In the wake of an adverse 2010 Army report on actions taken by former Montana National Guard Commander John Walsh, then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer told Army officials he had “the utmost confidence” in Walsh and that he should be promoted.
“I have the highest respect for … Walsh and I honor his service and sacrifice to the state and nation,” Schweitzer wrote in a September 2010 letter to the Pentagon. “It is my opinion … Walsh has the potential to succeed at the senior levels of our National Guard and should be federally recognized as a brigadier general immediately and promoted to major general as soon as time-in-grade requirements for brigadier general are met.”
The Army never gave Walsh a federally recognized promotion to the rank of general before he left the guard in March 2012 to run for lieutenant governor.
Lt. Gov. Walsh, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate this year, confirmed Saturday that his promotion to general was not approved because of a 2010 Army inspector general report criticizing his actions on behalf of a private group.
The report, which became public late last month, said Walsh improperly used his position as adjutant general to promote the National Guard Association, a private, non-governmental group that supports the National Guard.
Walsh said Saturday he did not personally benefit from his actions promoting the association and that he was trying only to help the National Guard.
After the report, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the vice chief of staff for the U.S. Army, issued a formal reprimand to Walsh, saying Walsh must “remain impartial in (his) dealings with non-federal entities, no matter how important or worthwhile you may believe the organization to be.”
Schweitzer wrote Chiarelli a letter dated Sept. 8, 2010, praising Walsh’s work as commander of the Montana National Guard and saying he planned to keep Walsh at the post for the rest of Schweitzer’s term as governor.
“Walsh is a take-charge leader who leads from the front to make things happen,” Schweitzer wrote.
“He is an exceptional officer; he has elevated the performance of the Montana National Guard to new heights through his selfless dedication and service.”