A Wisconsin National Guard sergeant said Friday that his superiors have decided to discharge him from the service and deny him retirement benefits in retaliation for complaining about sexual misconduct in his unit.
Wisconsin Air National Guard Master Sgt. Jay Ellis’ complaints about sexual assault and sexual harassment within the 115th Fighter Wing last year sparked two federal investigations.
“I just think it’s funny how there is so much in the national news right now about whistleblowers, but no one seems to give two (expletives) about my situation,” Ellis said in an email to The Associated Press.
Ellis sent a letter in November 2018 to U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, saying he had learned of at least six instances of sexual harassment or sexual assault against female members of the fighter wing’s security squadron.
The complaint led Baldwin to request a U.S. Air Force investigation. She and Gov. Tony Evers also requested federal National Guard officials conduct a top-to-bottom review of how the Wisconsin National Guard handles sexual assault allegations. Both probes are ongoing.
Ellis filed a separate complaint this past May with the Wisconsin National Guard’s inspector general’s office alleging that Guard officials transferred him out of his unit in January and had launched an in-depth review of his medical history to set up a medical discharge and deny him retirement benefits.
Ellis said in the complaint they prepared a memo for evaluators listing his medical issues even though the Guard has been aware of them since he joined 18 years ago. He added that his problems have long since been resolved and any restrictions on his physical training have been lifted but the security squadron’s top commander still recommended he be discharged.
The Wisconsin Guard’s top commander, Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, has ordered an investigation into the reprisal allegations.
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But Ellis said he was informed Wednesday by a representative from a medical evaluation team out of Scott Air Force Base in Illinois that he will be discharged. He said he will appeal, but without the support of his commanders, his attorney has warned him his chances are “less than zero.” If his appeals fail he’ll be discharged some time in February, he said.
He said that he believes the decision was timed to render Dunbar’s investigation moot.
Baldwin sent a letter Friday to Dunbar and Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau in Washington, urging them to halt Ellis’ discharge.
Ordering the discharge before the investigation into Ellis’ reprisal allegations is complete is “unacceptable” and could have a chilling effect on the sexual assault investigation by discouraging witnesses from coming forward, the senator wrote.
“The pursuit of discharge after Sgt. Ellis filed a whistleblower complaint and while the (sexual assault investigation) is unresolved has the disturbing appearance of retaliation and retribution,” Baldwin wrote.
Wisconsin National Guard spokesman Joe Trovato didn’t respond to an email seeking comment Friday. Thomas Doscher, a spokesman for Scott Air Force Base, had no immediate comment when reached by telephone but said he would try to gather what information he could about Ellis’ situation.
Sexual assaults have been a problem in the U.S. military for years. In 2017 alone all four branches received a total of 5,684 reports from members who said they had been sexually assaulted during their service, up 10 percent from 2016. The Wisconsin National Guard received 52 reports of sexual assault between 2013 and 2017, with more than half related to military service.