Wisconsin National Guard whistleblower wins appeal of medical discharge, can return to duty

Now he hopes the attention can return to victims.

The Wisconsin national guardsman who said he was medically discharged for bringing forward decades of sexual misconduct allegations in his unit learned Thursday he can continue serving his country.

After Master Sgt. Jay Ellis wrote a letter to Sen. Tammy Baldwin last year detailing two decades worth of sexual misconduct claims in units based at Truax Field, he was told he was being medically discharged. He fought the discharge with an appeal, and the final meeting for the appeal was Tuesday.

Ellis said his lawyer wasn’t sure he had a chance.

“The percentage of return to duty is 3 percent,” Ellis said. “He said 97 out of 100 people who go through this process wanting to be returned to duty do not get returned to duty.”

He was relieved to learn Thursday his appeal had been granted, and he can return to duty. Now he hopes the attention can move back to where he wanted it all along.

“I don’t want it to be focused on me,” Ellis said. “It’s not about me. It’s about that, it’s about those people those women who have had those issues, and it’s about all the people that have now contacted me from across the country across different branches of the military who are saying, ‘This happened to me too.'”

He’s hoping the other news Thursday — of Gov. Tony Evers sending a letter about an investigation into the Wisconsin National Guard — will help with that.

Evers wrote that after a seven-monthlong review, he has been briefed on the findings of the investigation, and he plans to bring the investigators with him to a meeting with the Guard’s Maj. Gen. Donald Dunbar on Saturday.

Evers also invited lawmakers to be briefed on the investigation Monday “due to the gravity of the situation and the report’s findings.”

In the letter, Evers wrote the investigators canvassed about 1,600 personnel, conducted 78 in-depth interviews, reviewed more than 1,100 documents and visited 10 military sites throughout Wisconsin.

According to one interview obtained by the Cap Times, a federal investigator called the handling of one case an “absolute trainwreck.” More details are expected to be released next week after Evers briefs key legislators.

Sen. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the lawmakers to be briefed on the matter next week, called for a review of the Guard’s protocol for handling sexual assault in February. He said in a statement Thursday he was shocked to hear how investigators were appalled as they looked into the Guard’s handling of these cases.

“It is the responsibility of the Department of Military Affairs to keep the brave men and women serving our state safe,” Fitzgerald wrote. “Clearly changes must be made.”

Ellis is hopeful the legislators and governor will act on what’s been uncovered.

“Now’s the time to do the right thing,” he said.

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