The tribal fight for the Georgia National Guard

Many have observed that the 14,000-member Georgia National Guard is just one big family.

Never has this been more true than now – if, by family, we’re talking about dysfunctional siblings and cousins whose every reunion requires a call to the cops and a supply of tourniquets.

No, “family” could be the wrong word. “Tribe” may be the better one.

Six months ago, Gov. Nathan Deal announced the involuntary retirement of Adjutant Gen. Terry Nesbitt. State Capitol veterans immediately identified the reason given for the abrupt departure as a red herring.

State law, we were told, required the Vietnam-era Special Forces veteran to retire by his upcoming 65th birthday, rather than before he turned 66.

But Nesbitt’s No. 2, Major Gen. Maria Britt, a West Point graduate and the first female commander of the Army National Guard, was his natural heir as adjutant general. She was dismissed as well –- and was nowhere near 65.

Last week, a request made under the state Open Records Act turned up a copy of an Aug. 15 memo sent to the Pentagon under the name of Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney, another decorated officer and director of a joint Army-Air Guard staff under Nesbitt.

Drawn up with the help of fellow National Guard officers, the memo alleged many things. The most explosive charge was that Nesbitt and Britt had engaged in a long-term and “improper” relationship –- something the accused generals denounced as a damned lie.

Dudney was fired by Nesbitt as the adjutant general walked out the door.

Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, says neither he nor the governor saw the Dudney memo until two months after the two National Guard leaders had departed. But they had heard the talk behind the formal complaint, and decided that -– regardless of the facts -– the situation required a clean slate.

Two trusted outsiders were brought in. State Sen. Jim Butterworth, a former captain in the Air Guard, was named adjutant general. Joe Jarrard, a retired lieutenant colonel with 20 years in the Army, with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, was installed as No. 2. Jarrard is the son of a former Deal law partner.

The governor’s attempt to address the situation has been met with derision from certain quarters, former and current Guard members included. For whether he likes it or not, Deal has gotten himself enmeshed in a serious culture war.

We will let David Poythress explain. He served eight years as Georgia’s adjutant general under both Govs. Roy Barnes and Sonny Perdue. You have to think of the Guard, which over the last 10 years has carried the burden of two wars, as something that’s an essential part of the citizen community -– and yet very separate, Poythress said.

“It is a very tight and very unique culture. I likened it to a tribal relationship, where there is a code of conduct, and the body corporate pretty well manages itself,” he said. “If you’re in the tribe, you have to adhere to certain rules of conduct. And those norms are much more complex and much more extensive than in the civilian world.

“I had four specific rules of the tribe. No dishonesty, no discrimination, no drugs, and no dishonorable relationships,” the former adjutant general said.

Poythress, by the way, has taken no part in the current Guard hostilities, and reports that he has friends on every side.

In a tribal society, membership, reputation and rank matter – roughly in that order. That some of us may find these values over-emphasized can be attributed to the distance created by an all-volunteer military.

Yes, tribal customs can get out of hand. Last month, 17 officers and non-commissioned officers were removed from a Georgia Guard unit on peacekeeping duty in Kosovo for hazing newcomers.

But even little things matter. Back home, Butterworth, the new adjutant general, has been chided for not knowing the more detailed rules of the tribe. For instance, the U.S. military, it seems, frowns on those who use its helicopters to deliver game balls to high school football stadiums.

All of this could be dismissed as a fight over who controls the big toys – the personnel carriers, the tanks, the jets and the ‘copters –- were it not for the fact that we have sons and daughters fighting and dying in distant places. This war within the National Guard is being fought with the intensity of those who believe lives are at stake.

One of the most pointed criticisms made by those unhappy with Deal’s appointment of Butterworth, who is now federally ranked as a major, is that Guard funding requires each state’s adjutant general to compete for cash from the same Washington pot. Butterworth will be vying against field-grade generals.

Decent funding means decent equipment. And decent equipment saves lives. It will be one of Butterworth’s bigger tests when it comes to leading the Georgia tribe.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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54 comments Add your comment

Ron Belcher

March 10th, 2012
9:21 am

Governor Deal saw the pressing need for new leadership. His choice of proven ethics reformer Jim Butterworth was spot on. As a Guardsman, I couldn’t be happier to have strong and ethical leadership at the helm.

Don Abernethy

March 10th, 2012
10:01 am

Governor Deal shows us ,just like Obama, that because he is Governor he can do what he wants to even if it violates laws or correctness. That is why I had to hold my nose when I voted for him.

Metro Mensa Man

March 10th, 2012
10:07 am

Given a choice (and I was), I chose to hold my pocketbook when I voted.


March 10th, 2012
10:16 am

where has Obama violated law?


March 10th, 2012
10:22 am

I would think Deal’s tackling scandal depends on who’s being investigated.

Michael #1

March 10th, 2012
10:24 am

Mr. Butterworth was not that highly thought of in his home county due to some problems that took place while he was a commisioner.


March 10th, 2012
10:30 am

Governor Deal has cleaned house over at the GANG and according to the unfolding and silly scandal behind it he was right in doing it. A couple of lusting generals carrying on with each other and a sour grapes subordinate general who snitched on them outside of the regular chain of command when he didn’t get the results that he expected; I’d say all parties concerned needed to go.


March 10th, 2012
10:45 am

If you aren’t in the TRIBE it’s none of your business, this is family and we will take care of it ourselves.

Just Wait

March 10th, 2012
11:08 am

It’s all well and good to clean up scandal. But to do so by creating a new scandal is counter productive. It is a fine example of ignorance and patronage on behalf of Deal.


March 10th, 2012
11:11 am

@jojo, you take public money. Therefore, dysfunction is the public business.


March 10th, 2012
11:40 am

Ianyone want to bet that all these “oh, butterworth is so ethical” comments are all coming from governor staffers and a handful of relatives? The old leadership had to go, ok. But butterworth? Undistinguished military career. One has to wonder how he ended up in the reserves during gulf war #1. A punk, corrupt county commissioner. A lightweight senator who went hat in hand to the gov asking for a job because he was about to get forcibly retired back home due to corruption. But he excelled at one important thing – kissing deal and riley’s rear. The guys a joke. And jarrard (who seems like an honorable accomplished soldier) is getting slimed with butterbean’s ineptitude. Governor, clean house, put some real generals in charge and end this debacle. Oh, and you govt staffers get back to work!


March 10th, 2012
11:49 am

Deal had rather change state law to put an unqualified man in position than he had appoint someone already qualified.


March 10th, 2012
12:39 pm


March 10th, 2012
1:28 pm

1) Governor appoints proven reformer.
2) Guard cronies go bizerk.



March 10th, 2012
1:30 pm

Enter your comments here

There's deal

March 10th, 2012
1:33 pm

Governor appoints unqualified croney
Professionals in the guard object

Governor’s other cronies try to justify


March 10th, 2012
1:36 pm

Deal should have known a former captain is not going to be able to get money from Washington. Our state is screwed as usual.


March 10th, 2012
1:41 pm

Deal is an inept crook. None of his appointments have been based on merit, all are political favors. But what else can we expect of an electorate that just elected moon bat ginrich as a presidential candidate..


March 10th, 2012
1:49 pm

Where was the criticism from the brass when the Guard was awash in multiple scandals? You should have had the loyalty to country to have spoken up then.


March 10th, 2012
1:52 pm

The honor, integrity and character of good people are being publicly disparaged because Dudney lost his job. Since he did not get his way, he has decided to try to destroy the organization that he claims to care for. This tells me that MG Nesbitt did the right thing by letting him go. Nesbitt could have easily left this for Butterworth to address, but he did the hard right thing. If Nesbitt had left Dudney in place, he would not be getting slandered across every media outlet in Atlanta.

Maybe someone should ask Dudney and Moore about their retention incentives. Dudney really needed an incentive to stay? Not even close.. You cannot get rid of him now no matter what you do.
He is slandering good people and that is enabled by media outlets that don’t take the time to vet the credibility of their source. This is a shameful web of half truths, outright lies and selfish motives. How much longer do you really think you can blame Nesbitt and Britt?

As for Butterworth and Jarrard; Both were given well paying jobs and great positions. Both understand state politics. However, neither of them are even close to being qualified. This is more than just an argument about credibility and their ability to work at the national level. This is about men and women who volunteer to sacrifice everything including their lives to defend our way of life. The National Guard is way past the weekend warrior stereotype of the past. There are Georgia Guard members all over the globe today serving to protect your right and Dudney’s right to say whatever you want about any subject. I believe our Soldiers and Airman deserve leaders who earned the rank they wear. Political appointees are appropriate among our civilian leadership, but political appointees who wear the uniform of our nation’s military should meet the minimum federal standards. This should not even be debatable. Especially when our nation is at war. I am ashamed beyond words at what I am seeing happen to good people because of one former general that cannot seem to understand that he has completed his duty. I only wish he would go away with dignity.

change we can only hope for

March 10th, 2012
1:58 pm

what did you think would happen when you elected someone with ethics issues of his own?
I’m a solid Republican but I won’t vote for the current gov. The Air Force has a motto that begins: “Integrity First”. That says it all to me.


March 10th, 2012
2:28 pm

I’ve known Maj. Gen. Maria Britt since she was a captain at Fort McPherson, and I have serious doubts that she was carrying on with MG Nesbitt. She has, always, been a most honorable person and a credit to the uniform. Until someone can show me absolute proof, I’ll side with MG Britt.

BTW: Deal is tool, a fool and a crook! You got what you paid for, Georgia! Somewhere, Herman Talmedge and Huey Long are smiling!


March 10th, 2012
2:59 pm

I’m with bigdawg. I too have know Gen. Britt for some time, and I don’t believe this one minute. Georgia’s politics have always stunk. and Deal appears to be taking it to new levels. Let them investigate the leadership of the rest of the State’s agencies, they’ll come up with something REAL there instead of this BS.

Hillbilly D

March 10th, 2012
3:07 pm

I’m no fan of Deal but he’s no Herman Talmadge. Nathan’s an amateur next to Herman.

Peter Bardoul, Retired GaArmy NG

March 10th, 2012
3:44 pm

I worked at the GA Amy National Guard from my enlistments in the early 70’s until my retirement in 1990. Al this time in worked in the same offices
as then CPT Britt and MAJ Nesbitt. Surely if there had been anything, even
remotely unethical, going on between the two, they would not have been unable to hide it. I worked long enough, and close enough with them that
I feel qualified to have a valid opinion, and that is that I have the utmost admiration and a continued respect for both of them. I am truly sorry that someone looked to discredit them in such an untruthful and cowardly way.
This Judas will get his due

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

March 10th, 2012
3:46 pm

I don’t see a problem here. Any group that comes together will encounter human problems. Some we must live with and others we must not. As long as we have enough honorable people in place willing to pay the price to remove those at each end of the spectrum whose conduct is intolerable, the integrity of the members is not threatened.

We are talking about a white man and a white woman engaged in a long-term and “improper” relationship in the Georgia National Guard. It is improper but does not shock the conscience. But it’s something that we can’t live with. And there were other minor violations.

The governor cleaned up the problem by forcing the white man and white woman to resign. He employed two trusted outsiders to replace them; a former captain in the Air Guard, and a retired lieutenant colonel with 20 years in the Army, with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, a former law partner’s son.

A Major competing with Generals in other states for money is something we must live with.

We would have real problems if two men, a white Adjutant General and a black Private First Class were engaged in a long-term relationship and the governor replaced them with a Specialist Fourth Class and Private First Class. It would be improper, a shock to the conscience, and something we can’t live with. The integrity of the Georgia National Guard would be threatened.



March 10th, 2012
3:54 pm

“If you aren’t in the TRIBE it’s none of your business, this is family and we will take care of it ourselves.”
I was in the “tribe” and when the media put it into the public realm it became all of Georgia’s business, especially where public monies were spent.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

March 10th, 2012
3:56 pm

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

March 10th, 2012
3:58 pm

Ole Guy

March 10th, 2012
4:15 pm

So much for the concept of civilian control of military operations…Truman and General Mac must be yuking all this stuff up. Harry; Doug…have one on me.

On to more current, and applicable issues: First of all, DO NOT refer to the GAARNG as a 14,000 member family, disfunctional or whathaveyou. That 14,000 number is comprised, by far and large, of your (so-called) weekend warrior…what we refer to as the M-Day (Muster Day) soldier. These soldiers, in all billets and all ranks, have next-to NOTHING to do with the good ole boy (all respects to Col Britt) crap which goes on…both while deployed in harm’s way, and back on Georgia soil…ALL THE TIME.

DO NOT attempt to dilute responsibility, for the actions of a very few, by infering that these “pranks” upon the soldiers of the GAARNG are those of a 14, 000 member family. The full-time AGR/Active Guard-Reserve “good ole boys fraternity” assumes a full-and-complete existence entirely removed from that “14,000 member family” where the “rules of the road”, in terms of professional expectations, come from two entirely different rule books.

The only…repeat, ONLY…way to resolve this issue is to get Father NGB/National Guard Bureau in the game. After a few “professional butts” get “paddled”, maybe this entire issue will reach a satisfactory resolution. Otherwise, the GAARNG will continue to see such lunacy as O-3 pals waking up finding that the “good fairy” left a few stars under their pillows.

Remember our good friend Golmer Pyle of the 60’s sitcom? SURPRISE SURPRISE!


March 10th, 2012
4:28 pm

Our governor continues to look stupid. He makes a title and makes up another title to give 2 men jobs.

Deal or no deal……he continues to be unethical and looks increasingly stupid every day.


March 10th, 2012
5:36 pm

As Forest said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

William Smith

March 10th, 2012
5:45 pm

So he is going to lose money because he is competing against a general grade officer. All is hear about is the national debt and budgets in crisis. Why not cut his and slash the others while Congress is at it. If we would keep our nose out of other countries business we would not need all of this to start with. Most veterans tell me that the people of the world don’t want us there anyway. Time to bring the boys home! Did I hear war drums in the background playing Iran here we come.


March 10th, 2012
6:37 pm

Do not even think this is the last completely stupid thing Deal will do and I promise we will not have to wait long.

3rd rock from the sun

March 10th, 2012
7:15 pm

Look at what he has gotten away with so far. He faces no deterrents in a state run by hillbillies. It is all relative.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

March 10th, 2012
7:33 pm

Now that the Guard had been subverted by 9/11-committing draft-dodging homosexual psychopath Bush and pressed into unconstitutional combat duty overseas, women shouldn’t be commissioned as line commanders, or allowed to attend the Service Academies for that matter. An easy way to avoid such “appearances” in the future.

Avoid guilt, and the appearance of guilt.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will crush the heads of the perverted New World Order integrationist crowd and their devilish black minions

March 10th, 2012
8:46 pm

I was just kidding. Just drinking my beer and messing with all of you. I think Deal is an idiot. Chris Riley never had a real job and couldnt get a real job if his corrupt boss didnt drag his dead ass around. The deadbeat has been living off the public dole and taking care of his buddies with taxpayer dollars. The people we should really be pissed at are the idiots who put Deal in office.

Ron Belcher

March 10th, 2012
8:55 pm

I know Governor Deal. He may not be a man of integrity and honor but he tried to do the right thing. Senator Butterworth needed a job as well as Rusel Carlson and Jarrard. He tried to ensure their families were well taken care of. They were his friends. He trust these men. Simply serving in a combat zone and spending more than half of your life moving up the ranks of military leadership is not as important. Experience is not that important. Peer and subordinate respect is not that important. Previous Command experience and performance is not important. PME schools such as War College is not that important. Having a Top Secret clearance is not that important. What is REALLY Important is that these men were his friends and his trusts them not the stupid stuff like actually be a general or earning the rank of general.

Long Gone- Fact or Rumor?

March 11th, 2012
10:32 am

It is shameful and cowardly for rumors to be presented as fact. All of “long gone’s” rumors where investigated by a DA IG years ago and was found to be without merit. What is long gone is the truth. Get over it. Both of them are out of uniform. You ought to be more concerned with the clown show that the Gov put in their places. It does not take an investigation to conclude that our service members deserve better.


March 11th, 2012
11:50 am

I am sure most people want to concentrate on the relationship and political favors issues. BUT, the real issues here are the safety and lives of the men and women who have been and will be going to war. We need real soldiers in command, not unqualified friends of the governor.

BG Dudney is being punished for doing the right thing. Everyone needs to contact Governor Deal and tell him to PLEASE bring back BG Dudney, our troops need and deserve his experience and leadership. We need a General who has gone to war with the troops and has their respect and confidence.

Georgia Voter

March 11th, 2012
11:51 am

Ron Belcher…


“…proven ethics reformer Jim Butterworth” (This statement is an absolute joke.)

“I know Governor Deal. He may not be a man of integrity and honor but he tried to do the right thing.”

OLD Guardsman

March 11th, 2012
12:03 pm

I find it very interesting that David Poythress described the guard as a tribal culture (a very tight and very unique culture) and Mr. Galloway attributes this tribal culture “getting out of hand” as the reason for the current “difficulties” regarding the GA NG. To put it directly: it’s because someone outside the guard was appointed as TAG/A-TAG.
While I totally respect MG Poythress and agree with his characterization, the fact that someone was brought from outside the tribe to be the TAG and A-TAG is not the cause of the current uproar and I can document it. In fact, MG Poythress proves it. He wasn’t a member of the “tribe” when he was appoint as TAG and while there may have been a little grumbling at the time because he didn’t have a guard background, he was accepted because he was a retired general officer from the Air Force Reserve. MG Poythress had the qualifications for the job and he earned the respect. Even if some of you will never admit it, there’s a big difference now.


March 11th, 2012
6:19 pm

The time stamp on this blog changed from the 9th when it originally posted to a re-run on the 10th.


March 11th, 2012
6:44 pm

“Field Grade” Generals??? I know someone is laughing at that one..

Garry Owen

March 11th, 2012
7:20 pm

General grade officers.

Dan Rainey

March 11th, 2012
8:26 pm

As a retired Navy Captain, you might say I have no dog in this fight but as a tax payer and someone who wants to rely on the Guard, I certainly do.

I have been appaled to watch this unfold. It falls in line with other misteps Governor Deal and his cronies have made. Watching the covey of politiicans bail as they were about to be exposed after they had accepted special hunting trips gave me my first hint of 1950’s style Georgia politics Governor Deal emboldens. I may have voted for him the first time but I’ll bet he is too smart to run for public office again.

Let the professionals run the Guard, get your cronies out of the way.

Truth and Consequences

March 11th, 2012
8:56 pm

In recent weeks the media has become the pawn of a manufactured scandal. This “scandal” has been initiated by retired General Larry Dudney. Mr. Dudney presents himself as a victim and a paragon of virtue because he courageously came forward as a “whistle blower” by signing a complaint against General’s Nesbitt and Britt.

In reality Mr. Dudney has serious personal failings which bring into question his credibility regarding the substance of his complaint. Mr.Dudney has repeatedly claimed that he did not know why he was fired. What he did know was that he had committed an act of plagiarism in which he stole someone else’s thoughts and ideas and presented them as his own, in a speech, without acknowledging the original source.

In fact, the person he plagiarized was Lt. Col. Lofaro who was wounded in a sniper attack which killed a fellow officer at Ft. Bragg. At the time of Mr. Dudney’s firing this information was becoming common knowledge. Both speeches can be accessed by Mr Dudney’s speech is accessable Go to community relations tab, speaker’s bureau, then Holiday Speeches. The third speech down is the St. Barbara’s Day Speech given by Bg.Dudney, Feb.2011.

Furthermore, Mr. Dudney implies that Britt could not have risen to the level she had without an inappropriate relationship with Nesbitt, and that the Guard has suffered as a result. Once again his credibility in this matter has been brought into question because he has not presented one shred of evidence to prove his accusations. Instead he relies on innuendo, hearsay, and gossip; the classic tools used by scoundrels to destroy the lives of others. Think Sen. Joseph Mc Carthy and his hearings in the ’50’s. McCarthyism has since become a synonym for character assassination.

It may come as a surprise to some that when General Britt came on board 20 years ago as a captain, the Ga.Guard languished near the bottom of the 50 states in several catagories. Through her devotion over the years; with each new promotion and growing influence, she was able to raise the standard of the Guard to one of the top Guard units overall and to first place in several other deployment catagories.

Her insistence on creating a first class professional organization based upon West Point standards has resulted in her placing only the most highly qualified individuals in positions of command by initiating the use of review boards.

This new system has been met by resentment by those who have been passed over for promotion or otherwise marginaiized. This type of leadership which avoids cronyism, does not sit well with the aforementioned, resulting in a vendetta often accomplished by spreading falsehoods.

Apparently this line of attack has worked for those willing to believe it for whatever their reasons or motives. As a result General Britt was summarily dismissed without an explanation as to cause. The mission of the Guard is too important to the state and the nation for it to be subjected to these manufactured distractions.

Enough is enough!!!


March 11th, 2012
9:00 pm

Thank you to all of our men and women in uniform.


March 11th, 2012
10:30 pm

The morons in this state get better and better at being morons as time goes on.


March 12th, 2012
6:44 am

I have lived in Georgia since 1976 and most my relatives have always lived in Georgia. I think we are now the new Alabama or Mississippi of the nation. We have a Republican legislature and Governor who will keep us going further backwards for many years to come.