THE GENERAL'S LAST CAMPAIGN

DESERT STORM WAS ONE THING. BUT BATTLING THE SOLDIERS OF THE ARIZONA NATIONAL GUARD WAS THE WAR OF GENERAL OWENS' CAREER.

He had been standing at the podium, answering a question from the Senate Government Committee chairman, when he tailed off into incoherence. He fell silent, lifted his glasses and felt for his pale eyes. His left hand drifted to his forehead. Abruptly, he turned and left the hearing room, as the chairman called for a five-minute recess.

After six hours of testimony, the general wept.
At the instant his composure crumbled, the general thought about how he had tried to help his soldiers. He remembered a sergeant who had been injured, who had no money and whose family was being evicted. He had helped that sergeant by making a telephone call to Washington, D.C., a call that resulted in putting cash in the sergeant's pocket. He had always tried to help his people, but didn't they understand that he could not suspend the rules?

How could they think he cared more for his career than his duty, that he favored some of his soldiers over others? After all, the general had not always been a general, with two stars on each shoulder and five ranks of ribbons on his left breast. When he joined the Arizona National Guard 40 years before, he had been a private, then a lieutenant. Unlike most people who join the National Guard--and unlike any previous adjutant general--he had never held a "civilian" position. On weekdays he had been a civil service employee of the Guard, a technician maintaining its airplanes; on weekends he had donned his uniform and flown the planes. He had followed orders and risen through the ranks until Governor Bruce Babbitt appointed him head of the Guard in 1983. Since then three other governors had seen fit to retain him.

Now, just two years from retirement, he was compelled to submit to a political procedure that permitted his enemies to attack him publicly. During most of the day, the hearing room had been filled, the general's allies on one side of the aisle, his detractors on the other, and many harsh things had been said about him.

When the chairman asked him why it appeared that the rules and regulations were selectively enforced under the general's command, it was all too much.

That was what Major General Donald Owens says he thought during the five minutes he took to compose himself on January 30. He had expected criticism when Governor Fife Symington asked him to remain as head of the Arizona National Guard. Because of a 1989 law that required the governor's appointee to be confirmed by the senate, Owens would be the first adjutant general required to undergo senate confirmation hearings. He expected the process would be grueling.

Such hearings were inevitably political skirmishes, but over the years Owens had developed a reputation for political astuteness. A Democratic governor had first tapped him for the position, and now a Republican governor--one who a few weeks earlier had given him a 25 percent pay raise--wanted him to stay. In between there had been Evan Mecham, who at first wanted to install someone else as adjutant general, but who had reappointed Owens after meeting with him. And after Mecham, of course, was Owens' good friend Rose Mofford, who earlier that day had testified in support of Owens for former governors Babbitt, Raul Castro, Jack Williams and Paul Fannin. She told the senate committee that during her years as governor and secretary of state, she "never heard one word of criticism about General Owens."

But there was criticism now.
Both Curtis Jennings, a Phoenix attorney who retired from the Arizona National Guard as a brigadier general, and Jack T. Brasher, a retired major general and former Guard commander, spent nearly 30 minutes urging the senators not to support Owens' confirmation.

"The only reason General Jackson Bogle and I are involved in this groundswell of opposition is because there have been many people who have called us and asked us to do whatever we could to oppose the nomination of General Owens," Brasher said. "They have asked that I not use their names, they've trusted me not to use their names. . . . [They] are fearful for their jobs. I suspect that if all the people that are in the Guard or associated with the Guard who are opposed to this nomination felt free to come forward to speak their mind, this room would be far too small to hold them."
In the weeks before the hearing, a coterie of former Guardsmen, including Jennings, Brasher, Bogle, five other generals and eight colonels, had sent letters to the governor and to Senate President Peter Rios asking that Owens not be reappointed to his post. They charged that Owens had surrounded himself with a general staff comprised of "yes men," and that he had systematically eliminated "those who presented candid professional viewpoints contrary to his own." They accused him of ruining careers for petty reasons, of loving too well the ceremonial component of his job and of making inappropriate use of "scarce flying time and instructor pilot hours" to restore his own flying status for his own "enjoyment." They alleged that during his eight years as adjutant general, morale and combat readiness in the Guard had declined.

A notebook containing 45 letters and statements from commissioned and enlisted members of the Guard opposed to Owens' reappointment as adjutant general was presented to the senators and Governor Symington. Many of the letters argued that Owens was more politician than leader, and many questioned his integrity.

"One of the criticisms against him was that he was a 'hail-fellow-well-met,'" Curtis Jennings says. "That he spent more time with the political and ceremonial side of the job than the military, that he's not really interested in the job so much as the position. He's always ready to escort the governor or to go to a meeting [with politicians]."
There were other complaints from rank-and-file Guard members. A pair of self-described "fat" sergeants complained that military regulations regarding weight were unevenly applied. They claimed they were denied due process when their military careers were terminated, unlike other "favored" soldiers. There were also allegations that Hispanic troops were not accorded equal treatment in the Guard.

Staff Sergeant Terry Soke, a woman who had been activated and sent to Spain to support air missions flown during the Gulf War, said her allegations of sexual harassment had been ignored by Owens and other top officers in the Guard. Soke says her efforts to file a sexual harassment complaint were frustrated to avoid embarrassing the Guard.

Others at the hearing claimed Owens wrecked the careers of those whom he considered to be his rivals for the Guard's top spot.

Richard Morris was a colonel in the Guard and a member of Owens' general staff until he resigned in 1986. He claims he resigned under duress after making comments about one day wanting to become adjutant general. Morris described his resignation in a letter to the senate committee:

"Owens, standing behind his desk, directly in front of me, read a prepared statement. . .[indicating] I had placed my personal goals ahead of those of the Arizona Army National Guard for personal gain. I was then directed to sign a letter of resignation which he placed in front of me.

"I totally underestimated the situation and the ruthlessness of the Adjutant General."
Owens says these "accusations" are not fresh, that each has been investigated and that the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C., has cleared him of any wrongdoing. He offers a letter of endorsement from Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney in his defense.

Owens claims he brought to the hearings the "baggage" of eight previous years as the Guard's commander. But while he admits making enemies, Owens did not expect the attacks to be so vicious, so mean-spirited, so personal. "He's gone through an extremely stressful period," Senator Stan Furman, the chairman of the Senate Government Committee, told the press at the time. "He's human. He gained control of himself very quickly. He's not a machine."

On January 30, Owens gathered himself and returned to the hearing room. Furman told the audience that the eight senators on the committee would not be voting that day on whether to recommend that the full senate confirm Owens' reappointment. Instead, the hearing was to be reconvened at 8 a.m. on February 1, a Saturday, so the senators could have time to evaluate the testimony and investigate some of the allegations made against the general.

Before the meeting was adjourned, Owens was given a chance to address the senators and his audience. The still-shaky general asked that the committee move swiftly to decide his fate. "One commander once told me. . .a good deed never goes unpunished," he said. "I have rules to follow and [my critics] have protected rights. I can give you documents--there is nothing that we can cover up that I know of."

He knew that no matter what happened, he would be required by law to retire on April 13, 1994, his 64th birthday. He told the senators that two more years as top officer was not "personally important" to him, but he thought it was "very important to the National Guard."

Two days later, when General Owens returned to the hearing room, someone had placed a box of tissues on the podium. But any doubts committee members may have held about Owens had been resolved. All eight senators--even Jan Brewer, who had been especially tough on the general two days before--voted to recommend that the full senate confirm him. Once again the general's political skills served him well.

Chairman Furman scolded Al Rodriguez, a retired Army colonel and Mecham crony, who claimed to have documented evidence of criminal wrongdoing within the Guard. Furman called Rodriguez's charges "scurrilous," his behavior "indecent" and, when Rodriguez rose to speak, had him escorted from the room by security officers. "In my opinion, none of [Rodriguez's] documents have any merit," Furman said.

"The general feeling was there was some kind of orchestrated attempt to get General Owens," said a senate staffer who followed the confirmation hearing. "A lot of the people who testified against him had very serious grievances, but I don't think the senators were sure that Owens was directly culpable--they'd had problems with the National Guard and he was the top man in the National Guard, so naturally they went after him. But I think Owens convinced the senators that, even if there were problems in the Guard, that he wasn't the source of these problems. Once he talked to them, I think he was able to clear up a lot of questions."
The general conceded that he bore ultimate accountability. It was a concession that served him well with the committee.

"Where there is that much smoke, there must be a little fire," observed Senator Bob Denny, a former Air Force colonel who retired to Litchfield Park. "General Owens, when this is over, I hope you will take a good look at some of these criticisms."
Denny and Senator Alan Stephens said they would introduce legislation to limit any future Guard commander to a single four-year term. Stephens said the proposed legislation should not be construed as a slap at General Owens or at anyone else, but as a policy change to be debated in the legislature. That legislation was drafted and passed two senate committees but was never brought forward for a vote. Denny says he is disappointed that Democrats Stephens and Senate President Rios didn't push harder for the bill, but Stephens admits the bill was a low priority, possibly just a knee-jerk reaction to the traumatic hearings.

"It was a reaction," Stephens says, explaining why the bill was allowed to die. "This was the first time there were Senate hearings, and General Owens had his supporters and detractors. . . . It was an emotional thing."
A few weeks later, the Senate confirmed Owens' appointment by a vote of 28 to 2. The general had won his battle to remain the top official in the Arizona National Guard. But the war had just begun.

@rule:
@body:Some small part of Don Owens' remarkable durability must be attributed to his appearance. He looks like a commanding officer or an actor playing an Air Force general in one of those Cold War jet operas like Fail-Safe or Strategic Air Command.

In his office, festooned with plaques and framed documents, he makes few wasted movements. His smile, however, is broad and tight, like a politician's practiced grin; the skin on his cheekbones draws back in folds as if fixed by a taxidermist.

He speaks--in an anchorman's voice drained of mannerism--as if prompted by cue cards. He is breezy, confident and likable.

Lieutenant Eileen Bienz, a public relations specialist, remains in the room, but she makes no obvious signals to the general. Indeed, gentle instructions flow the other way, and as the general nods or looks over the top of his glasses, she is quick to supply a name or number. Occasionally, she will jot a note to herself about something she feels vital to the outsider's understanding of the National Guard.

It turns out to be a pleasant morning for the general, as he talks about his career, the present and future of the Arizona National Guard. Sure, the confirmation hearings were tough, but he has survived. Military men are liable to make enemies. With more than 8,000 citizen soldiers in the Arizona National Guard, there are bound to be malcontents, troublemakers and people who, for whatever reason, honestly believe they were slighted by the system. And just as surely, there are abuses of power and ugly incidents. But most of the men and women in the Guard are good people, he says, who do what they are supposed to do when they are supposed to do it and give no thought to the color or sex of their fellow soldiers.

"We have regulations that ensure a hassle-free workplace," he says. "I'm sure that we haven't always been perfect, but hopefully we can address these concerns. . . ."
Owens says there is a tremendous reservoir of selfless talent in the Guard: Ph.D.s, attorneys, doctors, professional people, all willing to spend one weekend a month, as well as two weeks in the summer, drilling and training. Sure, they are paid, but he doesn't believe that is their prime motivation.

"This is like their golf," he says. "They don't golf, they do this: They come here and train. They don't have hobbies; this is the way they spend their leisure time."
This is serious work. Owens emphasizes the excellent performance of the Arizona Guard during Operation Desert Storm--and even the general's critics acknowledge local Guard units acquitted themselves well overseas, although they say Owens' role in the Gulf War was minimal. His role, detractors point out, consists largely of lobbying and public relations.

If so, then Owens seems well-qualified. He is a good spokesman and, unlike some military leaders, very comfortable around politicians. During his nine years as adjutant general, he has developed a knack for cultivating political friends. There is even some speculation that the third act of the general's life--after his retirement from the Guard--may find him running for elective office.

Under Owens the Guard has become a community resource. He says while its military mission must remain the Guard's prime focus, it is a flexible organization. Owens' Guard has helped with traffic control during the Pope's visit to Phoenix--an activity some of his critics have called inappropriate. He also points out that the Guard is active in everything from abetting drug interdiction to helping out with helicopter searches for lost hikers. Boy Scouts regularly swarm the McDowell Road headquarters, and in August the Guard buses 60 inner-city kids to the Navajo Army Depot, 14 miles west of Flagstaff, for a "Freedom Academy."

"Kids love challenges," Owens says. "They're competing every minute. We try to get them to make the right choices, because sometimes kids make choices that are lifelong and they don't even know it. Like if they choose to drop out of high school."
Without a high school diploma, Owens points out, they can't join the Guard. But they can use the Guard to further their postsecondary education, and unlike other military commitments, Guard duty won't prevent them from entering college right away.

"The Guard is a place where a person with no other resources can come," he says. "There are lots of us who joined as privates--I joined as a private and got lucky--and have been very successful. We encourage people to go to college and be successful. We try to get them to go to school--our thesis is that if they succeed, you'll succeed."
Not everyone does succeed, of course. And sometimes when they don't succeed, they end up blaming their sergeant, captain or the Guard itself. Owens is too politic to say so, but the implication is that many of the disgruntled Guardsmen who opposed his nomination were themselves failures, men and women who've projected their own shortcomings onto Owens.

"There are some failures, but there are so many more successes it is amazing," Owens says. "Those are the people you ought to talk to, those are the people who really are the backbone of the Guard. Our status is if it doesn't work, then fix it. We have the people to prove that."
The general stands up, a signal this conversation is concluded. He is used to controlling the situation by taking charge. Through a door, one can see people waiting for him, men in uniforms with glittering insignia. Lieutenant Bienz gathers her notepad and plucks the tape recorder off the coffee table. These days the general records all his interviews, as a precaution.

After all, he has enemies.
@rule:
@body:The general's enemies gather frequently to talk about their pending cases and ruined careers, plot strategies and exchange names of other people in the Arizona National Guard who feel wronged by the system. Their telephone lines sing with anecdotal traffic of promotions denied, injustices incurred and allegations of discrimination. The list of the discontented grows longer each week, as injuries and insults accumulate. They spread the word that a newspaper is working on a story about the general and the Guard. They have involved advocacy groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and the G.I. Forum--a national organization concerned with the treatment of Hispanics in the military--involved in their cause. Senator John McCain's office has forwarded some of their complaints to the National Guard Bureau and, because they haven't yet received a response, says the senator is preparing to "follow up." (Ironically, McCain is also a friend of Owens and sources say he suggested to Governor Symington that Owens be reappointed.)

The general's enemies supply the names and telephone numbers of dozens of soldiers who can tell how they were cheated out of their retirement benefits, and how their superiors harassed and discriminated against them because they were Hispanic, black or female. They point out that when the general finally exits, he will collect four retirement checks from the federal government and the state. They say that the general rules through intimidation--as in the case of once-ambitious Colonel Richard Morris.

These people have styled themselves as victims, and perhaps they are. Sometimes, however, the moral force of their arguments is obscured by the gray static of military codes and regulations. They are always presenting documents with sections overmarked in yellow, as "proof" they have been wronged. But they are like the folks who see Jesus in the yucca--despite their urgent faith, some eyes remain unconvinced.

This evening there are only a few men here to talk about the problems in the Guard. John Butler and Freddie Quihuis are big men--fat boys" is Butler's unflinching description--who contend the Guard's weight requirements are selectively enforced. While sergeants Butler and Quihuis were not allowed to reenlist because they were overweight, they say other soldiers, particularly officers, were allowed to stay in the service despite severe weight problems.

"I was at the hearing to confirm Owens," Butler says, "and I pointed out one of Owens' men, a general, who wasn't in uniform. He was so fat--he couldn't have passed his physical training. He wasn't in uniform because it would have been embarrassing. Here they run Freddie and I off--and we're good soldiers, we can do our jobs--and this guy gets to slide because he's a general? I don't think so."
Captain Art Mier, compact and intense, has been waging a private war with the Guard's chain of command for almost six years. He has won some battles, but he claims with each victory has come a reprisal. Now, facing charges of unethical behavior for allegedly cheating on a correspondence course, his status as both a federally commissioned officer and a full-time civilian employee of the Guard is tenuous. Even though the National Guard Bureau recently overturned a ruling that found Miers guilty of unethical conduct, he says he expects more reprisals. Over the years, he has developed a lawyerly mien and a growing list of disgruntled Guardsmen who feel they have been victimized by cronyism or the "old-boy network."

Mier charges that Hispanics such as himself have been systematically denied promotions and that Owens has--perhaps innocently--stacked his staff with officers unsympathetic to discrimination claims.

While federal law and service regulations prevent General Owens or anyone else in the Guard from directly responding to individual cases, there are many in the Guard who know Butler, Mier and Quihuis, and some who consider them "latrine lawyers," troublemakers who hide in the dense thicket of military regulations in which they swear they're trapped. For others they are something like heroes of the Resistance, underground guerrilla fighters. They all say they love the Guard, but they hate what it has become--the general's dread-sodden fiefdom, where the favored are granted rank and privilege beyond their due and dissenters are punished. They are part of the smoke to which Owens has promised to pay more attention.

Rigoberto Flores is also here, a slender man with a muted, almost fawnlike presence. He trembles when he tells his story, his English lightly accented. Flores has two problems. The first concerns a back injury he says he suffered while performing "extra duty"--outside his normal Guard commitment--in August 1989. He had trouble obtaining medical benefits, and claims he was run around by bureaucrats. Though he says he is in constant pain, he knows his story is typical.

But Flores has a second problem. Unlike other soldiers with similar service records, he has not been promoted. He says no enlisted Hispanic in his company has ever been promoted past the rank of staff sergeant to sergeant first class. Mier, who for a time was Flores' captain, says while less-qualified Anglo troops were "boarded" (considered) for promotion, somehow Flores' paperwork was never submitted.

"I complied with everything possible to be promoted and on two separate occasions I was turned down," says Flores, who has been a Guard member since 1971. "They came up with excuses of lost paperwork; just to me it wasn't good enough of a reason. I had all my qualifications. I was doing the job, but I didn't have the stripe."
Richard Erdmann arrives late to the meeting, in uniform. He is a counselor in the Guard's Equal Employment Office and he also contends he is at some risk of reprisal. There are some cases he cannot discuss, either because of privacy-act concerns or pending litigation, but he says the Guard routinely subverts its own regulations--that, in fact, the system makes it easy to discriminate against an individual or a class of persons.

Flores' story doesn't sound far-fetched to him: Erdmann says promotions in the Guard are only sometimes based on merit, and that there are ways to circumvent the federal guidelines. Erdmann also contends Owens and other top brass at the Guard know this is happening, and that any soldier who complains runs the risk of being branded a troublemaker.

"When they do things that are screwed up, no corrective action is taken that will force that individual not to do that same stunt again next time," Erdmann says. That way, he says, the chain of command can control promotions, especially since the slighted soldier has no mechanism for redress. The process is complicated, and although an individual soldier is unlikely to know the criteria for promotion, it is the soldier's responsibility to make sure the packet submitted to the promotion board is in order.

Other Guardsmen also describe a promotion review procedure ripe for abuse and manipulation--and innocent mistakes. John Butler says that often the first level of screening candidates for promotion is conducted by people of marginal competence.

"The orders will come down that there's going to be a board," Butler says. "And the [platoon] sergeant will need to pick two men to serve on it. He's not going to lose somebody who's vital. Instead, he's going to pick what they call 'nonessential personnel' to serve on the promotion board."
Butler says this sometimes results in "functionally illiterate people" checking soldiers' records against lists of criteria.

"The poor slob--maybe he's a guy who does nothing but change oil in the motor pool all day--now they've got him researching criteria," Butler says. "For him that's extra duty he doesn't get paid for, and he's got maybe four hours to get through 50 records. It's no wonder they don't do thorough jobs, and mistakes get made both ways--unqualified people get boarded and qualified people get shafted. And the next board is six months or a year down the line--there's no redress."
But, Erdmann says, it also cuts the other way. Sometimes marginally qualified soldiers are promoted because someone in the chain of command likes them.

"The environment is such that if you're one of their fair-haired boys, they take those extra steps to make sure that you're ready, you've got all your stuff together," he says.

If not, then they might lose your paperwork.
Flores connects Owens' "lack of leadership" with the problems in the Guard. "Personally, I feel there is a good-old-boy syndrome that still exists in higher company and battalion levels," he wrote in a letter to Senator John McCain's office. "This to me means that no matter how proficient or successful a soldier is, he/she will not make it to the upper ranks. I know this for a fact because in the last 20 years, I have never seen a minority exceed the rank of Staff Sgt. in this company. This signals a severe discrimination problem, which needs to be very much addressed for the better of the Arizona National Guard."

@rule:
@body:Richard Lagesse makes his living as a consultant, instructing federal employees throughout the country on the vagaries of the equal employment system, labor relations and management issues. He has heard the stories of many unhappy Guard members, and for more than nine years was an EEO officer in the Arizona National Guard. During that time, he says he had direct and frequent contact with General Owens.

He doesn't think the general is a racist. Or a sexist. Or an evil man. But he says it is impossible that the general doesn't know about the problems in the Guard.

"We would bring up complaints to the general all the time," Lagesse says, "and more than one time he said, 'Why do they do that? Why do [the Guard officers] treat their people so bad?' He's the boss, he could change that, but he doesn't. I've heard him say some very derogatory things about some officers. Yet he keeps these same people on."
While Owens says the Arizona Guard has a "reputation for excellence," Lagesse says the state Guard is better known for its personnel problems than its battle-readiness. Lagesse believes that limiting the term of the adjutant general is essential. "These guys who are attacking General Owens, they may have good cause," he says. "But I think they'd get farther if they concentrated on trying to get the term limited, so that the top command turns over."

Senator Bob Denny, who proposed the term-limiting legislation, agrees.
"Don Owens is a friend of mine," Denny says, "and this is nothing against him personally, but I don't believe this position should be a roosting place for someone. It ought to be an 'up-and-out' position, where you acknowledge someone's service, where you honor them, but if you stay there too long there's a potential to create an old-boy system. And it holds up promotions for a whole group of people."
"Most of the people who spoke against him at the hearing were retired," Curtis Jennings points out. "That's understandable since one of their complaints about Owens is that he's vindictive."
Jennings likens Owens' situation to that of recently deposed Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates. "People like them tend to impose their personality on an organization," Jennings says. "After they've been in charge five or ten years, there's going to be very few people left to oppose them."

Owens says there are advantages and disadvantages to the "up-and-out" system, but maintains that he was the best man to command the Guard during his tenure. He says there are qualified officers who will be ready to step in to replace him when he retires, and that continuity of leadership is important to any large organization. Denny, however, points out that many high-ranking military positions are limited to two-year terms, which prohibits the calcification of the chain of command and the development of a cult of personality. When one person occupies the top spot for too long, he says, there is a danger of certain orthodoxies setting in.

"It's just common sense," Denny says. "You tend to promote people who believe as you believe. It's not insidious, but it tends to stifle new ideas." Under state and federal statutes, almost any person who has reached the rank of colonel and been active for at least five years in the Arizona National Guard would be eligible for the adjutant general post, but practical considerations tend to thin the pool of candidates considerably.

For instance, unlike Owens, most National Guard officers are only part-time employees of the Guard. Since state law requires that the adjutant general "devote full time to the office," most officers would have to give up their often better-paying civilian jobs to assume the post.

As for the charge that only "right-minded" officers reach positions of responsibility within the Guard, Owens says his staff meetings often are the scene of fierce debates among officers. "I wish my so-called 'yes men' would stop arguing with me," he says.

While some critics feel "the system" is more to blame for the Guard's problems than the adjutant general, John Butler, the disgruntled former sergeant, dissents.

"The system is a good system," he says. "The problem is they don't follow their own rules. It's management by ignorance and incompetence, ergo, management by crisis. They run here and there and put out little fires, but if they'd follow their own rules, 90 percent of their problems would be solved."
If everybody followed the rules, Butler argues, there'd be no need to limit the adjutant general's term.

"It's all written down, you just follow the procedures," he says. "The trouble is, they don't know what their own rules are. I know more about them than they do. I go to them and show them regulations and they say, 'Oh, we didn't know that. Sorry.'" @rule:

@body:Lieutenant Eileen Bienz admires her boss and loves her work. As she wheels through the large compound that houses the Guard headquarters, it also becomes clear that she loves the National Guard. Every few feet she points out--with genuine enthusiasm--something interesting that bespeaks the general quality of the Arizona National Guard. There, she notes, is a collapsible air traffic control tower, and here are some captured Iraqi trucks and tanks, trophies from a lightning war.

She is helpful, a good hostess. Even those who gather to say bad things about the general find Bienz charming. When she runs out of gas and has to walk a few hundred yards back to headquarters, she makes it easy to see why someone might want to spend their weekends playing soldier, flying KC-135s on refueling missions, skimming over the desert in a brand-new Apache helicopter.

Bienz is another one of Owens' "success stories," the sort of soldier the general is fond of pointing out. She, too, enlisted as a private, and at first was a weekend-only member. Now she works as a full-time, civil service employee of the Guard; she has her commission and a career.

"There are so many good people in the Guard," Owens says. "Those are the people that ought to be written about."
During the hearings, a lot of people commended the general, too. Some of these were political allies, such as Mofford, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik and Senator James Henderson. But there were others, Guard sergeants, ham-radio operators and junior high school principals, who testifed on behalf of the general. When you're the general, you make friends as well as enemies.

Bienz pauses for a moment, and drifts away from her tour-guide patter. Near the door to the "war room," her mind returns to the general and his hearings. She remembers the awful silence, and his tears. "What hurt him the most," she says, "was the personal tone of the attacks. Every organization has its problems--everybody who leads is going to make some decisions that not everyone will agree with. But they all went after him. It was pretty ugly.

"After all, he's not just a general. He's a person, too."
A person under siege.

CASHIN' IN ON CONTROVERSY ICE-T AND SIST... v8-05-92

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