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Turmoil shakes California National Guard with firing, suspension of top generals

Paul Pringle and Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Magram, director of air staff, was suspended and reassigned, and Chief Master Sgt. Steve Pyzska was relieved as command chief under Jones, the Guard said.

Magram and Pyzska declined to comment.

In an interview, Jones said the Guard’s statement suggesting that he treated women or people of color unfairly is “absolutely false” and it was actually Baldwin who created an unhealthy environment at Guard headquarters.

“He’s been there too long,” Jones said. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown appointed Baldwin to the post in 2011. “He’s lost touch with reality.”

Jones said he did not know why the F-15C, an air-to-air combat aircraft, was placed on an alert status for a domestic mission last year. The jets are based at the Guard’s 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno. Their principal mission is to respond immediately to attacks by enemy aircraft on orders from the Pentagon as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. They are also used to train pilots for that mission.

Jones said it would make no sense to place an F-15C on an alert status to respond to earthquakes. “You don’t know when they’re going to happen,” Jones said. “It’s a poor use of resources to have an airplane just sitting there .... It’s just not the mission that they’re designed to do either,” which is to shoot down other airplanes.

 

He said he has butted heads with Baldwin in the past over what he thought was an improper use of military aircraft.

He said Baldwin pressured him to deploy an F-15C jet to survey damage from the 2019 Ridgecrest earthquake. When he resisted, Jones said, Baldwin told him: “These are my airplanes.”

To accommodate Baldwin, Jones said, the Guard classified the Ridgecrest mission as a federal training exercise to disguise its true purpose.

During last year’s mass protests after the police killing of George Floyd, Jones said, Baldwin pushed to send hundreds of Air Guard members to cities across the state with inadequate training.

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