The California National Guard has a long history of serving the country in critical times of need. Its members fight wildfires in Northern California, respond to emergencies like earthquakes and help out at major events, such as the LA Riots. The Guard recently assisted with rescue efforts in Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast. It is a reserve military, with a base in Mountain View at Moffett Field, and has a force of 23,000 guard members—the largest in the nation—where "integrity first" is a guiding principle.
But a joint-investigation by NBC Bay Area and NBC4 Southern California has uncovered a disturbing hidden culture in the California National Guard where some guard members say sexual assault and racism at times go unchecked, and where retaliation is a frequent method of discipline.
Reporters spoke with nearly two-dozen men and women from the California Guard who have found no solution inside and now want to expose what they say is the truth.
Among the findings that emerged during the investigation:
One staff sergeant who was the only African-American woman in her office says she has been subjected to repeated incidents of racial harassment including use of the N-word and other obscenities.
A master sergeant and 12-year Guard veteran says she was the victim of a sexual assault by a fellow officer, an incident her superiors assured her would be investigated, but was not. She says she continued to be the target of sexual harassment by other guard members.
In February of this year, Major General David Baldwin was confirmed as the California National Guard’s Adjutant General after being appointed by Governor Jerry Brown in April 2011 to clean up problems in the Guard. The buck for the California National Guard stops at his desk.
"I have a mandate from the Governor to change the culture of the organization," Baldwin told the state Senate Rules Committee in Sacramento during the Feb. 15 confirmation hearing.
Through the California Guard’s Director of Public Affairs, Major General Baldwin has declined numerous requests for an on-camera interview to address the problems exposed by members of his Guard.
Send your tips to NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our tipline: 888-996-8477.