McGeehan: West Virginia National Guard Worked ‘Behind the Scenes’ To Defeat Bill
WHEELING — A bill intended to keep West Virginia troops from seeing overseas duty when no act of war has been declared by Congress is officially dead in the Legislature for the 2019 session.
Leaders with the West Virginia National Guard opposed the “Protect the Guard” measure, and said it could have cost the state millions as military missions would have been deferred to other states if the measure had been enacted.
Delegate Pat McGeehan, R-Hancock, introduced HB 2731, and says National Guard officers were active in getting the bill killed using intimidation.
The legislation would have required that Congress declare war or call forth the state militia before the West Virginia National Guard could be released from state control and sent into combat.
Currently, the authority to activate the Guard rests with West Virginia’s governor.
McGeehan successfully fought Monday to get the legislation discharged and read before the House of Delegates, but it was placed on the “inactive calendar” prior to crossover day on Wednesday. Wednesday was the deadline for bills to be passed out of the chamber of origin to remain active in the Legislature.
“After the success on Monday, the Adjutant General of the West Virginia National Guard (James Hoyer) — along with the military brass at the Pentagon — aggressively worked behind the scenes to kill the bill,” McGeehan said.
“I have solid reason to believe that the adjutant general, among others working in tangent with him, spread nothing short of deception and propaganda. Worse still, the military brass adamantly worked to undermine our civilian legislature to prevent the peoples’ representatives from even having a final debate on the subject of whether the Congress should take a vote before our men and women in the military are sent into wars overseas.”
House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, and “a few others folded,” according to McGeehan.
“I truly believe it was because they were intimidated by these guys,” he said. “I had delegates who are close allies of mine here tell me that the general — along with a cadre of troops with him in camouflage — cornered them in their offices, demanding they vote against my constitutional bill.”
Hoyer has been out of town attending a conference this week, according to Capt. Holly Nelson, public affairs officer for the West Virginia National Guard.
“To say he has been at the State Capitol intimidating people would be inaccurate,” she said.
The National Guard has opposed the “Protect the Guard” bill, Nelson acknowledged.
“If enacted, the (U.S. Department of Defense) couldn’t count on us to be deployable,” she said. “Missions and projects would go to other states, and there would be a loss of millions of dollars to West Virginia.”
The West Virginia National Guard is comprised of about 6,400 airmen, according to Nelson.