Commander of state National Guard resigns
By Bob Johnson
Associated Press Writer
MONTGOMERY — Maj. Gen. Mark Bowen resigned Thursday as the commanding general of the Alabama National Guard, one day after the Army released a report that Bowen had an improper relationship with a female officer in his command.
Gov. Bob Riley said in a news release he had accepted Bowen's resignation, but did not mention the report from the Army Inspector General's office.
"General Bowen has served the state over six different decades in the National Guard and has done a good job. I respect his decision to leave at this time," Riley said.
The governor, who like Bowen is from Clay County, said Wednesday that Bowen told him earlier that he planned to retire and that he would
not ask Bowen to step down immediately because of the report.
The Army's report concluded that Bowen had a relationship with the female officer that included visits by Bowen to her home, more than 700 phone calls over five months last year and Bowen giving the woman financial assistance.
The report said she "received preferential treatment because of her relationship with MG Bowen."
The woman's name was blacked out in the report.
Riley said Bowen called him from Washington Thursday morning and said he was going to step down immediately.
Riley praised Bowen for his supervision of the Guard, which has seen units deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.
"He has had an extraordinary career," Riley said. "This guy has served his country for 40 plus years. You look back to what all has gone on with hurricanes and with the deployments — I think the operation of the National Guard in Alabama has been held up almost as a national standard and for that I'm appreciative of his service."
Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said the governor did not ask or pressure Bowen to resign.
Riley did not immediately name a replacement for Bowen.
A spokesman for the Alabama National Guard, Lt. Col. Robert Horton, said Bowen would not have any immediate comment.
Horton said in addition to calling Riley, Bowen notified his staff Thursday morning of his decision to resign.
Better record than many
University of Alabama political scientist Bill Stewart said Bowen's resignation is the first major blemish against members of Riley's cabinet.
"Gov. Riley's record as far as his cabinet is still way above average when compared to other governors," Stewart said.
"This should not detract from an extremely capable cabinet that has not embarrassed him."
The report said the female officer was promoted by Bowen when she was ranked 24th among 39 people eligible.
The report also said that at one point Bowen gave her a new job and failed to consider 13 other applicants for the position.
The investigation of Bowen, who is married, was conducted after the Alabama National Guard Inspector General's office received a complaint that Bowen had "an improper relationship" with a female officer in his command. The complaint was referred to the Army Inspector General's office.
The report concluded that there was no evidence that Bowen and the woman had a sexual relationship.
But it said there was "evidence of physical contact between MG Bowen and (the woman) when he hugged and kissed her."
Legislators had little to say Thursday when word of Bowen's resignation reached the Statehouse.
The chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Sen. Jimmy Holley, D-Elba, said he was "surprised" by Bowen's resignation but declined to comment further.
Rep. Craig Ford, D-Gadsden, an inactive Army Reserve captain, said, "I hate it for General Bowen."
Ford praised Bowen for his more than four decades of military service.
"Good people make mistakes," Ford said. "I trust Governor Riley to find someone just as capable to lead the Guard."
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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