A retired staff sergeant joined Libertarian candidate Ric McCluskey on Monday at a press conference claiming U.S. Rep. Steven Palazzo is AWOL from his duty with the Mississippi National Guard.
“It was a running joke every drill — “no show Palazzo,” said Staff Sgt. Rolan Wade (retired).
The press conference was held outside Palazzo’s Biloxi office on Tommy Munro Drive.
Wade said he doesn’t know if Palazzo, R-Miss., has been drawing a paycheck for his Guard service, but said he knows Palazzo didn’t show up for drills with his assigned Bravo company.
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“I’ve never seen him,” said Wade, who served in the Mississippi National Guard for 12 years, from 2004-16, and is now retired.
In a statement to the Sun Herald, Palazzo’s office agreed that he didn’t drill with the 1-155th Combined Arms Battalion out of Poplarville.
“Congressman Palazzo completed the majority of his drill requirements at Camp Shelby and also drilled at (Joint Force Headquarters) in Jackson,” the statement said. “He has not drilled at the Poplarville unit.”
McCluskey, a Libertarian candidate running against Palazzo to represent the 4th Congressional District, also is a Marine Corps veteran like Palazzo. He said Wade was one of Palazzo’s immediate supervisors.
Wade said Palazzo was reported absent from drills after each roll call with the 1-155th Combined Arms Battalion. Typically, a Guardsman has 4 1/2 days to report unless he can provide a reason for his absence, Wade said.
He acknowledges that Palazzo could have been excused from drills, but said that approval typically starts at the bottom and goes to a higher level.
“If there was anything done, it was done above company level,” he said.
Wade said that at some point, Palazzo’s name was dropped off the company roster and an email was sent saying Palazzo was transferred to Joint Force Headquarters.
McCluskey said others in the Guard who do not want their names used have provided signed affidavits.
“I have heard the National Guard is opening an investigation,” McCluskey said.
“If I’m lying, I want Congressman Palazzo to file a lawsuit against me immediately,” he said.