The two-star commander of the Ohio National Guard is still in his job, according to a spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine, despite the uproar spurred by police body camera footage that appeared to show the general shoving a journalist during a news conference last month.
Military.com also confirmed with two National Guard Bureau officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press about the matter, that Maj. Gen. John Harris Jr. is still serving as the state’s adjutant general.
“There have been no charges, either civilian or military, filed against MG John Harris, Jr.,” Capt. Jenna Walton, a spokesperson for the Ohio National Guard, told Military.com in a statement, but the Ohio Guard did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether Harris is facing disciplinary action.
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Harris, an aviation officer, was seen in an altercation with NewsNation reporter Evan Lambert during a Feb. 8 press conference on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Harris, who was in uniform and serving in his capacity as head of the state’s Guard contingent, appeared to have interrupted Lambert’s news reporting, grabbing and then shoving him, and firmly put his finger in the reporter’s face.
An Ohio state trooper pushed the general away. Lambert was also grabbed by officers and tackled to the ground as he was leaving the building and charged with criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. He was quickly released from custody, and the charges were dropped. Lambert was accused of being loud during his news broadcast, a common necessity for reporters broadcasting live who often have to talk in front of cameras as public officials speak in the background.
“The reporter should not have been stopped, period,” DeWine said at a separate press conference Feb. 14. “The initial confrontation never should have occurred. I think the general regrets that. … I explained to him how press conferences work, and sometimes someone will be reporting. They have the right to deliver the news. He regrets the whole situation.”
Harris commands the Ohio Guard and its 17,000 troops, one of the largest National Guards in the country. He was appointed to the position in 2019 by DeWine when he became governor. Harris has been in the Army since 1981 and deployed to Kosovo in 2004.
The Ohio National Guard is in the midst of a major deployment to Iraq and Syria, with roughly 1,800 troops mobilized, including the 2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 148 Infantry Regiment, which make up the state’s ground combat force. That deployment is its largest since its 2011 mission to Afghanistan, in which three of the state’s troops were killed.
Last month, 50 soldiers with Ohio’s 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade deployed to Germany as NATO bolsters its defenses amid the war in Ukraine. The state was relatively active during the Global War on Terror, with multiple deployments since the early days of the Iraq invasion, although Harris did not deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan, according to his service record.
— Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.
Related: Bodycam Footage Appears to Show National Guard General Shoving Journalist During News Conference
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