Major General Sheryl Gordon, Adjutant General of the Alabama National Guard, has been illegally serving in her role for almost 11 months, according to a complaint filed with the Department of Defense's (DoD) Office of Inspector General last week.
The complaint filed by Wyoming-based retired Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Carden cites federal law requiring adjutant generals to retire by the last day of the month they turn 66. Gordon turns 67 on Friday.
The complaint is an appeal of an initial complaint filed by Carden in April with the same office that was dismissed.
"In my time in the National Guard what I saw was a real lack of accountability and oversight in the few different states I've been in. In the past 30 years, I've been in Iowa, Wyoming, Washington state, Texas, and also Nevada. What I saw in the National Guard was a real lack of oversight, accountability," Carden said in a recent interview with 1819 News. "A lot of that stemmed from the adjutant general's office. They're simply not held accountable, so I became aware of this situation in Alabama. I decided to go ahead and put in an IG complaint, saying 'Okay, well this individual might be doing a great job. She might not be but regardless she is over the legal age.' There's federal law that is quite clear about that. I just passed that on to the IG, and they came back with essentially a non-answer, 'Nothing to see here, move along.' They never provided any rationale as to why they pointed me in that direction. I went ahead today and put in an appeal to that IG complaint, saying, 'Well, you really need to answer the mail on this age 66 and one month regulation. It's obvious that the Adjutant General in Alabama is not following that. She's been pulling a paycheck now for the past 10 months in my view illegally so just want an honest answer here."
Carden continued, "Our country was founded on the equal application of the law. It doesn't matter if you're the lowliest or some high plutocrat. The laws apply the same across the board."
"In the military, when you have someone who is flouting the law, that's extremely bad precedent to set. Especially when it becomes known," he added. "Typically, these things get known around the water cooler fairly quickly. It just engenders a lot of disrespect towards that office, number one. Number two, it may bring about some rule-breaking by the lower ranks, and you don't want that. Of course, if someone is holding up fresh blood from coming into that office, that's not a good thing either. It just shows a general lawlessness, and that's not something that you want to have with people with aircraft and guns, right?"
Mack Muzio, director of public affairs for the Alabama National Guard, told 1819 News last week that Gordon is still serving in the role legally due to an approved extension of federal service.
"MG Gordon is currently serving under an extension of federal service approved by the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. This extension remains effective until December 31, 2023," Muzio said.
As adjutant general, Gordon advises Gov. Kay Ivey on military affairs and commands the Alabama Army and Air National Guard and its more than 12,000 citizen soldiers and airmen. Gordon was commissioned in 1981 through the Alabama Military Academy. She became the Alabama National Guard's first female general officer in 2009 and is the first female adjutant general in Alabama National Guard history.
Carden said federal law doesn't allow for waivers or exemptions after age 66 and hopes his complaint leads to Gordon's retirement.
"If it is substantiated my hope is that they send a report to the Governor of Alabama, saying 'One of your employees here is breaking federal law.' Put it on her desk and leave it up to the Governor. I think probably the best, most gracious output of this situation would be the Governor just says, 'Yeah Sheryl, you just need to, like, retire. Got any suggestions for your replacement?' She retires within a month. They have a nice retirement ceremony. She's lionized for her decades of service and then she goes away. I think that would be proper for her decades of service. Not looking for anyone to be thrown in jail or something but she needs to move on," Carden said.
UPDATE: After publication on Monday morning, Muzio sent this statement to 1819 News:
"Lt. Col. Carden’s assertion about federal law is incorrect. You can find the actual law here in Title 10, Ch. 63 of the U.S. Code:
Relevant to this discussion is the following excerpt under section C:
“The Secretary of the military department concerned may … defer the retirement or separation … of any officer … if the Secretary determines that such deferral is in the best interest of the military department concerned. … a deferment … may not extend beyond the first day of the month following the month in which the officer becomes 68 years of age.”
Finally, it should also be noted that neither federal nor state law requires the National Guard’s Adjutant General to have federal recognition as a general officer. The position serves at the Governor’s discretion and, if so chosen, could continue in a state status indefinitely."
UPDATE #2: Carden said in a statement to 1819 News on Wednesday:
"The Alabama National Guard falsely claims that federal law, 10 USC Chapter 63, allows the Adjutant General to serve past 66; that section of law only deals with Regular officers and those O-6 Colonels and below. It does not apply to Reserve officers, like Major General Gordon.
The sections of federal law that applies to MG Gordon deals specifically with Reserve officers. They are 10 USC 14512 and 14515. It states, "Unless retired, transferred to the Retired Reserve, or discharged at an earlier date, a reserve officer of the Army or Air Force who is specified in paragraph (2) shall on the last day of the month in which the officer becomes 66 years of age, be separated in accordance with section 14515 of this title." Adjutant Generals are specifically named later in that section.
There are no exemptions or extensions of retirement for Reserve officers in that law. The Guard also stated that Alabama law doesn't require the Adjutant General to have federal recognition. That is false. Alabama law 31-2-58 states, "The Adjutant General shall be appointed from active officers of the federally recognized National Guard"."
To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.