Editor's note: See late-breaking additional statement from the Alaska National Guard at the end of this article.
Newly revealed investigations detail Alaska Army National Guard recruiters behaving badly. Very badly.
“The culture of fear is so predominant throughout the entire organization that persons of influence and power have retreated in the shadows and feel helpless to assist these women.”—State Command Chaplain Lt. Col. Rick Koch
Military investigation reports obtained by the Press detail rampant sexual misconduct beginning in 2007 by three Alaska Army National Guard recruiters whose joint nickname was “The Three-Headed Monster.”
The reports provide in-depth accounts of four sexual assaults and numerous cases of sexual harassment targeting fellow soldiers, new recruits, and civilian women, including high school JROTC cadets.
One National Guard investigation found that a recruiter sexually assaulted a civilian victim in late December 2010, more than a month after three military chaplains have said they personally warned Governor Sean Parnell that Guard officers were covering up rapes committed by recruiters.
The AR 15-6 investigation reports identify the three recruiters known as The Three Headed Monster as Sgt. Jarrett Carson, Master Sgt. John Nieves, and Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Tallant. (AR 15-6 refers to the military code for investigations of misconduct by officers.)
The reports, which have not been released to the public, were submitted to Alaska National Guard leaders in December 2013.
“Leadership assigned investigators to look into the recruiters’ activities because they wanted negative behavior to have negative consequences,” said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska National Guard. “These former Army National Guard recruiters’ behaviors should in no way be a reflection of the organization of the Alaska National Guard or the many men and women who proudly and honorably serve.”
Olmstead said there is "an entirely new recruiting staff and leadership" in the Alaska Army National Guard office (which are separate from the Alaska Air National Guard). The AR 15-6 reports show that investigations of Carson, Nieves and Tallant began in mid-2012.
“These three cases are a good example of the fact that the National Guard has been trying to respond to and fix our own issues for several years,” said Olmstead. “It was some time before the recruiters' activities even came to light. The behaviors described in the 15-6s you [the Press] have are unquestionably reprehensible.”
None of the former recruiters named in the reports have been arrested or charged with any crimes by military or civilian law enforcement agencies based on the findings in the AR 15-6 reports.
Those findings include:
• Carson, Nieves and Tallant, all three married at the time, habitually violated military regulations by having consensual sex with women they met in their official roles as recruiters, as well as with fellow soldiers, including subordinates. Numerous liaisons took place in the “back room” of a National Guard recruiting office inside the Dimond Center shopping mall, and inside marked Alaska National Guard recruiting SUVs. One woman told investigators that in the spring of 2011, she went to the shopping mall recruiting office not long after graduating high school to inquire about joining the Guard. She said that Carson, who was 35 years old at the time, “threw her over the desk” and had sex with her, though she described the encounter as consensual.
• According to a summary of investigative findings in one AR 15-6 report, in December 2010 Nieves raped the younger sister of a soldier that he had recruited to join the Guard three years prior. According to the report, Nieves, then 35 years old, physically forced the 19-year-old woman to have sex with him after threatening to ruin her brother’s military career if she rejected his advances.
• Tallant boasted to fellow soldiers of having sex with a high school girl he met at Dimond High School through a JROTC program. Three former Dimond High School female JROTC cadets told military investigators that from 2007 to 2009, during their freshmen through junior years of high school, Tallant repeatedly asked them out on dates and offered them alcohol. One former cadet said that Tallant “talked about Jägermeister and Jäger Bombs and Southern Comfort, which could be mixed with pineapple juice so that one couldn’t taste the alcohol,” and that when she visited him at the Dimond Center recruiting office, “he would try to talk her into the ‘back room,’ which housed the recruiting giveaways such as T-shirts and water bottles.” A second former cadet said that when she was a freshman in high school, Tallant offered to give her a ride home after school. Once she was inside his car, she told a military investigator, Tallant announced they were going to his house instead. The girl “told SFC Tallant that she wanted to go home because her mother was probably looking for her,” according to an AR 15-6 report. “Tallant countered that it would only take about five minutes. When SFC Tallant stopped at a stop sign she jumped out of the car. SFC Tallant tried to convince her to get back in his car but she ran off and used a stranger’s phone to call her father for a ride.”
• Tallant was the Non Commissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of an Alaska Army National Guard recruiting “mobile events team” that officially represented the guard at the 2008 Arctic Man winter sports festival. The recruiters traveled to Arctic Man in Alaska National Guard RVs. Investigators found that “from the moment they arrived excessive drinking and partying were accepted and encouraged by SFC Tallant.” A female Alaska National Guard recruiter who served under Tallant and was assigned to the mobile events team at Arctic Man turned 19 during the four-day festival. According to an AR 15-6 report, Tallant, who was 34 years old at the time, sexually assaulted her twice inside a guard RV after she became so intoxicated that she passed out the night of her birthday.
• During a 2008 recruiting event at a lodge in the Copper River Basin, several recruiters serving under Tallant witnessed him persuading a civilian woman in a bar to “drink more alcoholic beverages than it appeared she wanted to,” until the woman “seemed drugged, not responsive, loose, incoherent and clumsy.” According to witnesses cited in an AR 15-6 report, Tallant pulled the woman into an Alaska National Guard RV and fondled her while she was unconscious. “The victim was asleep while this was happening, but at some points she would make efforts to have him stop before falling back into an unconscious state,” the report states. Military investigators found that Tallant then directed soldiers under his command to “stand lookout” while he pulled the woman into a bedroom behind an “accordion door” inside the guard RV. One soldier told investigators the RV soon began to rock and he heard Tallant making sounds “consistent with intercourse.”
• During a 2009 recruiting trip to Clam Gulch, a woman that Tallant had recently met during a military recruiting event at ThursdayNight at the Fights in Anchorage “showed up to party with SFC Tallant.” According to military witnesses, “Tallant strongly insisted that she drink alcoholic beverages. At times SFC Tallant seemed forceful in making the woman drink.” One witness, who at the time was a Sergeant serving under Tallant in the recruiting battalion, told investigators that Tallant at one point in the evening ordered him to go purchase more liquor at a liquor store, and to hide the woman’s car keys so that she couldn’t leave. The Sergeant did not hide the keys well because “he wanted the woman to leave for her own safety,” the report states. When the woman found her keys, Tallant ordered the Sergeant under his command to let the air out of her tires, which the Sergeant did, after first requesting that Tallant repeat the order. Upon returning from the liquor store, the Sergeant said, he offered to give the woman a ride home. “Tallant said she was not going anywhere,” the report states. “That night, the Sergeant woke up to find Tallant having sex with the woman. The woman did not seem to be enjoying herself.”
• A female Alaska Army National Guard soldier who was recruited by Tallant to join the guard in 2011 reported that, while she was still in basic training, Tallant invited her to his house to watch a movie. “[Tallant] had her sit on a bed and then sat next to her. She became uncomfortable,” states an AR 15-6 report. “SFC Tallant said he wanted to see a new tattoo she had just gotten, so he reached over and lifted up her shirt. The victim said she ‘left fast.’”
Six months before the 2011 incident with the new recruit, three Alaska National Guard chaplains, including State Command Chaplain Lt. Col. Rick Koch, informed Governor Sean Parnell in two speaker phone conversations about widespread misconduct with the Alaska National Guard, including sexual assaults perpetrated by recruiters, according to extensive notes of the conversations kept by the chaplains.
“Four women known to me and some others have been sexually assaulted and/or raped within this past year,” Koch told the governor, according to written “bullet point” notes he said he used in the conversations, and gave the governor’s office in November 2010.
“None of these women will come forward due to mistrust and fear of reprisal. The culture of fear is so predominant throughout the entire organization that persons of influence and power have retreated in the shadows and feel helpless to assist these women.”
According to Koch’s notes, he informed the governor that, “Our newest recruits, in my opinion, are at constant risk.”
Parnell has refused to release public records showing what he knew about sexual assaults and other serious misconduct within the Alaska National Guard, when exactly he knew it, and what, if anything, he did about it.
Last week the Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Public Media sued Parnell, asking a judge to force the governor to release the records “that could help voters verify whether Parnell acted swiftly in dealing with numerous allegations about mishandled sexual assaults, harassment, fraud, favoritism and other misconduct, including abuse of power, within the Guard over the past several years.”
According to the AR 15-6 reports obtained by the Press, military investigators found that Carson, Nieves and Tallant frequently boasted of their close friendships with superior officers and described themselves to other soldiers as “untouchable.”
One report describes Nieves publicly bragging that he was close with Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus, who was the leader of the Alaska National Guard until he was forced to resign by Governor Parnell in early September of this year. “Nieves said that he was Katkus’ ‘boy,’ and made it clear on several occasions that he could run things the way he saw fit and the General had his back,” states the report.
Investigators also found that Tallant “flagrantly touted” his personal friendship with Lt. Col. Joseph Lawendowski, the former commander of the recruiting battalion, and his friendship with his direct supervisor, Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Brown.
Tallant was arrested for DUI on March 13, 2011. According to an Anchorage Police Department report, Brown was a passenger in the vehicle Tallant was driving while drunk. Military investigators found “numerous instances in which SFC Tallant’s inappropriate behavior was presented to CSM Brown for action,” but no action was taken.
“Their fraternization resulted in the destruction of unit morale and served as the catalyst in which SFC Tallant was allowed to continue to use his rank and position to abuse junior soldiers as well as prey on young women,” an AR 15-6 report states.
Several Alaska National Guard soldiers who gave sworn statements to military investigators said that Carson, Nieves and Tallant were collectively nicknamed The Three-Headed Monster, due both to their widely known misconduct, and their abnormal size: Carson is 6’2” and weighs 270 pounds, Nieves is 6’2” and 250 pounds, and Tallant is 6’1” and 260 pounds, according to military records.
“MSG Nieves, MSG Carson and SFC Tallant used their ranks and large statures to abuse their authority and threaten their subordinates,” military investigators found. “These three recruiters were seemingly untouchable and attempts to report their misconduct were either ignored or resulted in negative repercussions for the recruiter reporting the misconduct.”
According to soldiers who served with Carson, Nieves and Tallant, The Three-Headed Monster had a motto backed up with threats of violence: “What happens in recruiting, stays in recruiting.”
Editor's note: One hour after this story went live at mid-day on October 15, Alaska National Guard public affairs director Lt. Col. Candis Olmestead emailed the Press the following statement:
"Whoever provided the Press with the 15-6 investigations did so in violation of the Privacy Act and Army policy, without authorization. The investigations, which include findings, recommendations, sworn statements and other supporting documentation, are safe-guarded by the organization until the final action is complete. At that time, the documents are releasable through the Freedom of Information Act, subject to Privacy Act requirements. Our intention was to provide rank, unit, offense and final action for each individual once all administrative actions were completed. Although our legal team is required to provide copies of the 15-6s to the respondents' council, we do not, under any circumstance, think the respondents' council would have released these documents. We do not know who released the documents, but they were released in direct violation of DoD [Department of Defense] policy, and they were not released by anyone acting in an official capacity on behalf of the organization or the respondents' legal council."