MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force reserves who has more than 25 years of military experience will take over as commander of the Wisconsin National Guard following a sexual assault scandal that led to the former leader resigning in December, Gov. Tony Evers announced Monday.
Brig. Gen. Paul Knapp, who has not served in the Wisconsin National Guard but is from Antigo and lives in Whitefish Bay, will take over the position as commander, Evers said in a statement. With the five-year appointment, Knapp’s rank will increase to major general.
Knapp called it a “dream job for this kid from Antigo, Wisconsin, who chose a military career.”
Evers said an expert panel of current and retired military officers, including the adjutant generals of Georgia and Maine, interviewed applicants and recommended finalists.
“Brig. Gen. Knapp is a dynamic, proven leader who has selflessly served our nation during his 28-year military career,” Evers, a Democrat, said in a statement. “His strong leadership and dedication to the state of Wisconsin are a perfect fit for the Wisconsin National Guard during this time of transition.”
Knapp will replace Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, who resigned at the end of December after a report from the National Guard Bureau found that under his leadership the Wisconsin National Guard defied federal law, regulations and policies for years over the handling of soldiers’ sexual assault and harassment complaints.
Federal investigators revealed multiple shortcomings in the Wisconsin Guard’s sexual misconduct reporting protocols, most notably commanders opening their own internal investigations into complaints rather than referring them to Army or Air Force criminal investigators as required by federal law and Department of Defense policy.
Evers asked Dunbar to resign hours before the report was released on Dec. 9. Dunbar had been the nation’s longest currently serving National Guard commander, having taken over the post in 2007. He served under three governor’s, two Democrats and one Republican.
Evers ordered the Guard to implement all of the recommendations contained in the report by September. That includes updating written policies and communicating all disciplinary actions down to the company level. The National Guard Bureau, based in Washington D.C., will oversee implementation and conduct another review to ensure every issue has been addressed.
Allegations that Wisconsin Guard officers had been brushing aside sexual assault complaints and retaliating against victims first became public in November 2018.
Last month, Evers appointed former Georgia National Guard Lt. Col. Brian Bischoff to serve as the Wisconsin National Guard’s new sexual misconduct ombudsman. In that role, Bischoff will work with victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and retaliation and provide quarterly reports to Evers on complaints.
Knapp graduated in 1992 from the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and previously served as a special agent for the Air Force Office of Special Investigations before attending navigator training. He served two operational tours as an F-15E weapon systems officer and one as an air liaison officer to the U.S. Army in South Korea. Knapp left active duty in 2003. He served the past year as backup to the commander at the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.