Stitt shakes up state's National Guard leadership
Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday replaced the leader of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard.
Stitt named Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, a 35-year veteran of the National Guard, as the new adjutant general.
Maj. Gen. Michael Thompson, who had served in that position since 2017, said at a Veterans Day event Thursday he found out via social media that Stitt had appointed Mancino as his replacement.
Stitt spokesman Charlie Hannema said the governor called Thompson on Wednesday to inform him that he was being relieved of his command. That call occurred before the governor's office put out a news release naming Mancino as the National Guard's new leader, he said.
Replacing Thompson had been in the works for months, Hannema said. When the governor's office announced the change in command Wednesday, there was no reason given for the shake-up
In October, Thompson submitted his resignation, saying he planned to step down in mid-January, Hannema said. After the governor decided he wanted to promote Mancino, it didn't seem necessary to keep Thompson on until the new year, he said.
It's not clear if Thompson submitted a formal resignation letter at that time. If so, the governor's office did not provide a copy Thursday. Thompson did not return a call seeking comment.
Thompson told the Tulsa World Stitt asked him to submit his resignation in October, but that they agreed the top military leader would stay on into January.
As for how Stitt handled the situation, Thompson told the World: “He is the boss. That is his style. At the end of the day, nobody can tell him differently.”
Stitt's office also said the governor's replacement of Thompson had nothing to do with the issue of mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for members of the military.
Last week, Stitt asked the federal government to suspend a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for members of the Oklahoma National Guard, saying about 800 soldiers, or 10% of the force, had not yet been vaccinated or don't intend to get the shots.
In August, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said all military members must immediately begin to get COVID-19 vaccines. Most branches of the military already require troops to receive a host of other vaccinations to be eligible for service.
Thompson has been a vocal proponent of COVID-19 vaccines.
At the Veterans Day event, Thompson deflected a question about whether he was replaced due to vaccine issues, saying "you'll probably have to ask the governor that."
Thompson has served with the National Guard for 38 years. He also previously served as the state's commissioner of public safety under former Gov. Mary Fallin. He was a 1990 graduate of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Academy.
Mancino has served as assistant adjutant general since 2019. In a news release, Stitt called him a steady leader, strategic thinker and effective communicator.
He was commissioned in 1992 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Oklahoma State University. Prior to that, he served for six years as a soldier with the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
“I am incredibly humbled to be selected by Gov. Stitt to continue serving the State of Oklahoma in this new role,” Mancino said in a statement. “The men and women of the Oklahoma National Guard provide critical support for their fellow citizens wherever needed and being named Adjutant General is the honor of a lifetime.”
Mancino served on the Governor's Solution Task Force that Stitt formed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to help him address the health crisis.
This was not the first time Stitt replaced a gubernatorial appointee without providing much of an explanation. He removed two members of the Health Care Authority Board this year after they voted against his interests. At the time, Stitt's office did not respond to questions about why he had ousted his own appointees.