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About six months ago, Steve Hambleton — a retired colonel in the US Army National Guard — was an overwhelming favorite to be the next American military leader. He had worked in Iraq and Afghanistan as a military liaison officer and had served on the reviewing board of the memorial to US flag-laying soldier General Douglas MacArthur.
Things looked good. General Grant was scheduled to submit his senior enlisted soldier’s nomination Nov. 8, 2018 — or 90 days before his new term begins Jan. 1, 2019.
But on Nov. 14, the general was surprised when his nomination for the Pentagon’s number-two position was sent back. It was because his nomination was missing one key person: his ex-wife.
The controversy surrounding General Hambleton raises questions about whether his ex-wife had tried to sabotage his nomination for a prestigious post he was expected to accept. A key recommendation in the Armed Services Committee gave the general’s ex-wife an equal voice at a time when family issues are being elevated at the Pentagon.
“This went on for about a month. Then one day someone said, ‘Hey, we’ve got it’ and we got it,” Hambleton told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning. “The bad news, as far as I know, no one took responsibility.”
Hambleton said in February he would not run in the upcoming election, because he couldn’t participate in public discourse on partisan issues.
“I try to stay out of politics. You need a lot of politically savvy to be an American soldier and it’s not for me,” Hambleton said.
“I’m a soldier first. I’m not a politician. I don’t like both parties.”
Hambleton got the job
Hambleton, an Army veteran from Florida, retired as a lieutenant colonel after 25 years in uniform. He served as the director of military affairs for the Indiana Republican Party. He also was a special assistant to the chairman of the Republican National Committee. He now is a consultant and military logistics specialist.
His military credentials are impressive. He was Chief of Staff of the Indiana National Guard’s Military Advisory Council from 2008 to 2009, and he served as the Army’s liaison officer to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010.
While the nomination was temporarily shelved, Hambleton said he can’t yet speculate whether a new nomination will be submitted to the committee.
According to military personnel rules, the nomination was an attempt to give the General Hambleton a “fair hearing” from a panel of all eight service secretaries, the secretary of the Navy, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the chief of the Army, the chief of the Air Force, the chief of the Marine Corps, the Chief of Naval Operations and the Joint Chiefs’ staff.
“The facts of my nomination were presented publicly multiple times and I was allowed the opportunity to respond to all charges,” Hambleton said. “It was very transparent.”
Hambleton recounted how he was at a law firm on Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C., when the secretary of the Navy called and asked him to come to the Pentagon. He did so and he was among a number of military veterans who were honored.
Hambleton’s former wife, however, was not there, and when he told her about the honored presence of a number of war veterans in the room, she “took offense to the fact that she wasn’t there” and told him her ex-husband would likely not make the new post in the Pentagon happen.
It wasn’t until another committee member informed her of the General Hambleton’s nomination that she figured out her ex-husband wasn’t going to be given the top post, Hambleton said.
A quick explanation of the General Hambleton’s case to the Armed Services Committee members did not help.
Military personnel rules require nomination deliberations be closed, Hambleton said.
Several commission members refused to explain to him why his nomination was not approved, and because no members gave him an explanation, Hambleton is left to draw his own conclusions.
Hambleton had begun his post-retirement career with a job with a top defense consulting firm, but he was unable to provide further details.