The adjutant general of the Maine Army National Guard is scheduled to meet with Gov. Paul LePage this week amid a controversy over plans to swap Maine’s 133rd Engineer Battalion for an infantry unit from another state.

Brig. Gen. James Campbell, who was appointed by LePage in 2012, also faces mounting criticism in the Guard’s ranks for his leadership style.

A high-ranking officer who contacted Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz recently said: “The environment at Camp Keyes (the Maine Guard’s Augusta headquarters) right now is absolutely toxic. There is a poor command climate, lack of transparency and general intimidation from senior leaders. I haven’t seen anything like it in the 20-plus years I’ve been in the Guard.”

Adrienne Bennett, LePage’s spokeswoman, would confirm Monday only that the governor is scheduled to meet with Campbell at the State House later this week. LePage is at a Republican Governor’s Association event in New York, she said, and is not expected back before Wednesday evening.

Bennett would not say what Campbell and the governor will talk about, but it’s likely that the conversation will address reports that Campbell and Mosher drafted a plan that would send the 133rd Engineer Battalion out of state, possibly to Pennsylvania or Arizona, and replace the engineers with an infantry unit.

Many former and current guardsmen who have contacted the Press Herald in the last three weeks have said that an engineering battalion is much more valuable to Maine, particularly in peacetime.

If the engineer battalion left, Maine would lose equipment and expertise that it has called on repeatedly for emergency responses and community service projects.

Campbell and Mosher have extensive infantry backgrounds, and sources within the Guard have said the two have created a pro-infantry, anti-engineering culture in the last two years.

“At the 1st leadership conference under his command, General Campbell stated, ‘WE KILL PEOPLE, THAT’S WHAT WE DO!!” a chief warrant officer who’s now serving in Afghanistan wrote to the Press Herald. “Just how much ‘Killing’ do the citizens of Maine need?”

Campbell has been in Saudi Arabia for more than a month on a fellowship. He returned to Maine this week but was “not available” Monday, said Guard spokesman Maj. Michael Steinbuchel.

LePage and his staff have said for weeks that no decision will be made without the governor’s approval, and have characterized the leak of any plans as a political ploy by detractors.

Shortly after the story broke, LePage contacted a Press Herald reporter to ask for the source of the information. When the reporter didn’t give it, LePage replied, “Well it didn’t come from the Maine National Guard,” then hung up.

The LePage administration has said that Campbell has been exploring various options in case the National Guard’s ranks are reduced nationwide, something President Obama has supported with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down. Maine has about 2,100 guardsmen and women.

This month, Campbell sent an email to members of Maine’s congressional delegation in which he said it’s “highly likely” that the Maine National Guard will add an infantry unit in exchange for the engineer battalion. And when the news broke last month, Steinbuchel said plans for more infantrymen and fewer engineers have been in the works since 2008.

About 160 members of the 133rd Engineer Battalion are now in Afghanistan to dismantle equipment and facilities that supported combat operations there for more than a decade. The battalion is scheduled to return home to Maine next month after a nine-month deployment. The homecoming could be awkward.

In an email to the Press Herald, one senior noncommissioned officer asked, “So my Soldiers and I are expected to return to Maine, look General Campbell and Colonel Mosher in the eyes and shake their hand?”

Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: @PPHEricRussell


Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Brig. Gen. James Campbell’s chief of staff, Col. Jack Mosher, would attend a meeting between Campbell and Gov. Paul LePage at the State House later this week. Mosher will not be present.