Tim Walz often refers to his military service as he campaigns for governor of Minnesota. However, former members of the Minnesota National Guard are raising concerns over the discrepancies in Walz’s story, saying he is misleading the public on his service.
“Tim Walz has embellished and selectively omitted facts and circumstances of his military career for years,” said Thomas Behrends, a retired Command Sergeant Major of the Minnesota National Guard.
Walz, 54, joined the Army National Guard when he was 17 years old, completing 20 years of service. In 2001, just days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Walz re-enlisted in the Minnesota Army National Guard. He then retired in 2005 to run for Congress.
Behrends says Walz did serve a “long and honorable career,” but it is Walz’s stories surrounding his service post 9/11 that raises red flags.
The discrepancies in Walz’s story starts with how long he re-enlisted for. In 2006, as Walz was amid his first campaign for Congress, questions were raised about the timing of Walz’s retirement. Tom Hagen, a Minnesota military reservist who served in Iraq, sent a letter to the editor of The Winona Daily News questioning Walz’s sudden retirement after learning his unit would be deployed to Iraq.
“But even more disturbing is the fact that Walz quickly retired after learning that his unit —southern Minnesota’s 1-125 FA Battalion — would be sent to Iraq,” Hagen wrote. “For Tim Walz to abandon his fellow soldiers and quit when they needed experienced leadership most is disheartening. It dishonors those brave American men and women who did answer their nation’s call and who continue to serve, fight and unfortunately die in harm’s way for us.”
Walz was quick to respond to the letter, writing a follow up in The Winona Daily News that criticized Hagen for what Walz considered a “partisan political attack.” In his response, Walz claimed he re-enlisted for four additional years, implying his retirement was unrelated to the news of the deployment.
“After completing 20 years of service in 2001, I re-enlisted to serve our country for an additional four years following Sept. 11 and retired the year before my battalion was deployed to Iraq in order to run for Congress,” Walz wrote.
However, official documents from the National Guard contradict Walz’s story. According to Walz’s Report of Separation and Military Service form, Walz re-enlisted for six years, with his service obligation being complete on September 18, 2007.
According to Behrends, Walz’s battalion received a warning order to prepare to be mobilized for active duty for a deployment to Iraq in early 2005. On May 16, 2005, Walz retired, leaving his battalion and its soldiers without a key leader as they prepared to go to war.
Even if Walz did re-enlist for 4 years, he still retired months before his obligation was complete, Behrends noted, adding that it furthers the belief that Walz retired to avoid deployment.
Behrends ended up taking Walz’s place, and the battalion was deployed to Iraq for over 22 months from 2006 to 2007.
Tony Wenzel, a retired Platoon Sergeant for the Minnesota Army National Guard, said he “could never vote for Tim Walz as our Governor, when he abandoned his fellow soldiers like he did.”
“It sickens me to realize that Tim Walz, in the face of being deployed to Iraq, would quit,” Wenzel said. “When the going looked tough, he bolted. Good soldiers don’t do that.”
Alpha News reached out to the Walz campaign for clarification on the inconsistencies in Walz’s story in comparison to the official documents. The campaign would not answer questions on the duration of Walz’s reenlistment.
Behrends also called into question Walz’s use of the title of command sergeant major. Before his sudden retirement, Walz was conditionally promoted to command sergeant major. However, Walz left the military before completing necessary training and service. His discharge documents show he was reduced in rank, retiring as a master sergeant. Despite this, Walz still uses the title of command sergeant major.
While National Guard officials have said it is technically acceptable for Walz to use the title given that he did serve in the role, the former guardsmen Alpha News spoke with considered the continued use of the title as a further attempt to mislead the public on Walz’s service.
“Tim Walz was reduced in rank to Master Sergeant and that is what he will receive retirement benefits for,” Wenzel said. “Walz lied in his campaign literature that he retired as a Command Sergeant Major. Not true.”
Alpha News also reached out to the Walz campaign regarding Walz’s service as a command sergeant major, and why he continues to use the title despite retiring as a master sergeant. The campaign did not respond.
In an open letter posted to social media, Behrends and fellow retired Command Sergeant Major Paul Herr detailed the discrepancies in Walz’s story surrounding his service, saying it is all “gut wrenching and sad to explain.”
“When the nation called, he quit,” Behrends and Herr wrote. “He failed to complete the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. He failed to serve for two years following completion of the academy, which he dropped out of. He failed to serve two years after the conditional promotion to Command Sergeant Major. He failed to fulfill the full six years of the enlistment he signed on September 18th, 2001. He failed his country. He failed his state. He failed the Minnesota Army National Guard, the 1-125th Field Artillery Battalion, and his fellow Soldiers. And he failed to lead by example. On top of that he failed to uphold the seven Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.”
Read the full letter here.