ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - The Missouri National Guard has a secret. A former National Guard contractor says a report may reveal military mismanagement and abuse of authority. However, he says the Missouri National Guard is hiding the facts with the help of the Department of Defense.
Some of the answers are revealed in a Defense Department investigative report from the Inspector General. Fox 2 News has a redacted copy of the report, courtesy of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s office. It acknowledges mistakes, but page after page is blacked out.
The report involves a complaint by Michael Sandknop, who served in Iraq as a broadcast journalist. After the war, he got a job at the Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office. One of his first projects was to feature 14 Purple Heart recipients who fought in the same Afghanistan battle.
Sandknop learned during the filming that most of the guardsmen were on their very first deployment.
“Twenty-six years in the military doing public affairs and it is one of the most incredible stories I’ve ever heard,” said Sandknop, describing his work on the story.
Sandknop’s bosses had a different idea for the story.
“The two officers in the public affairs office didn’t want it and they were interfering with actually doing the production,” he said.
Sandknop said his superiors wanted less of the human side and more information about the awards ceremony. Sandknop added that he had to use some of his own video gear to get the story done. He filed a complaint and then it got worse.
“When I go to the meeting at 3 o’clock, wow. I had more fun in combat. I mean, it was just volcanic,” he said.
Sandknop was fired. An internal investigation found, “You were working within your contract, proper video equipment was not provided...It was also determined there was an unhealthy work environment in the Missouri National Guard Public Affairs Office. Appropriate action will be taken to address these issues.”
Did the Missouri National Guard take that “appropriate action”?
“No,” Sandknop said.
That’s when Senator Claire McCaskill’s office stepped in.
“The Missouri National Guard is refusing to tell Senator McCaskill’s office what those appropriate actions were,” Sandknop said.
McCaskill is demanding more answers. Her office obtained the investigative report that seems to favor Sandknop’s version of events, but the 17-page report is mostly redacted. More than half of it is blacked out, page after blacked out page.
The Missouri National Guard did not respond to requests for a comment and Senator McCaskill was unavailable to comment because of her recent breast cancer diagnosis.
Our partners at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch have followed Sandknop’s case since December. You can see their continuing coverage below.