Guard vet exhausted by battle with military leadership over misconduct

National Guard veteran Morgan Davis has been struggling against military leadership for years, in a fight over sexual misconduct, retaliation and beyond.



July 2, 2021 - 12:49 PM

Morgan Davis, who left the Kansas National Guard as a chief warrant officer 3 in 2020, says her persistence in reporting alleged misconduct in the Kansas Guard brought her military career to a premature end and contributed to development of her post-traumatic stress disorder. (THAD ALLTON FOR KANSAS REFLECTOR)

TOPEKA — Insomnia compelled Morgan Davis to seek refuge on a small backyard patio offering sanctuary from the downward spiral of her career in the Kansas Army National Guard.

On that November evening, the outdoor cocoon proved insufficient. Davis drove to a convenience store in Topeka where the mission was to slip in and out unrecognized, part of a concerted effort to adopt a lower-profile approach to living. As she exited the business, she bumped into a former Kansas Guard officer. Casual banter took a different tone by shifting to Davis’ military status.

“I just started shaking,” Davis said. “I can’t think. I can’t breathe. My mind just goes blank.”

The fractured bones of Davis’ 21-year Army career — reports, correspondence, testimony, photos, complaints, notes and emails — could fill boxes. The flesh of her military ordeal took shape during a review of those documents and through sporadic conversations and interviews beginning five years ago and intensifying after her retirement in 2020.

Davis said her life in uniform ended prematurely because of an unwillingness to look the other way at perceived wrongdoing in the Kansas Guard. She attempted to work within boundaries of the military system while filing reports or complaints ranging in subject from administrative corruption to sexual abuse to distortion of the promotion process. She raised alarms about personal issues as well as situations involving others in the Kansas Guard.

Substance of those allegations catapulted Davis into years of conflict with command staff that viewed complainants as irritating troublemakers ripe for expulsion.

Davis said her lonely campaign was aimed at bringing accountability and transparency to the insular Kansas Guard, especially actions of some high-ranking staff allied with then-Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli. For nine years, the general was responsible for training and readiness of 7,000 personnel in the Army and Air components of the Kansas Guard. He served as senior military adviser to Govs. Sam Brownback, Jeff Colyer and Laura Kelly before retiring in March 2020.

Davis’ struggle evolved to emphasize self-defense as individuals within the Kansas Guard retaliated against her, she said. Her best asset was technical expertise in personnel policy and procedure acquired in service of the Kansas Guard. She said she proceeded under threat of reassignment to a lesser position, loss of promotion and firing.

“It wasn’t ever about me until it was survival,” Davis said. “Everything that could have gone wrong with the process went wrong.”

The battle ended last year with her departure from the Kansas Guard and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs affirming her disability for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I’m still not over my breakup with the Army,” Davis said. “I have a hard time talking about it. When I see people from the military, period, it is extremely distressing. I see the uniform, and then the alarms start going off. I follow from their feet up to the face. Even if I don’t know them, it’s upsetting.”

Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, who has led the Kansas Guard since April 2020, wasn’t able to discuss personnel issues of current or former soldiers and airmen.

Weishaar said his commitment during 40 years of service was to foster a culture of dignity and respect and to compel troops to apply standards equally.

“That is what I try to convey across the force,” Weishaar said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re, in my case, a two-star general, or if you’re a one-striper. The expectation is the same. Do we have people do dumb things? Absolutely. Whatever goes on in the community is happening in the force.”

Weishaar said members of the Kansas Guard were expected to work daily to live up to military values and to better respond to societal problems of mental health, suicide, sexual abuse, gender-based harassment and other issues inevitably filtering into the armed forces. The Kansas Guard has adopted a series of programs to help members prevent, manage or overcome impediments to their service, he said.

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