Is Colonel “Big Nasty” Too Much of a Hardass?


By Debbie Gregory.

The Arizona National Guard is trying to oust one of its top officers, Col. Christopher Lambesis, based on charges that he has been insubordinate, as well as a toxic leader who committed and communicated threats to the state’s military commander, Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire.

Col. Lambesis, nicknamed “Big Nasty,” has been accused by his superiors of being too much of a hardass.

With his 24-year Army career on the line, the combat veteran with two Bronze Stars contends the case against him is really about his complaints of improper promotions, unethical leadership and inaccurate data that could endanger troops scheduled for deployment.

Col. Lambesis said he found evidence that many Guard units, soldiers, and airmen had falsified readiness documentation, calling into question their skill certifications and fitness evaluations.

As recent as February 2016, Lambesis was promoted to O6, running operations and training for Arizona’s 8,300 part- and full-time guardsmen.

But by October, he was being shown the door.

At age 49, Lambesis is an imposing figure with a shaved head and starched uniform — an officer who greets people with direct eye contact and a firm grip.

“He has a very rigid picture of what an effective leader looks like, and that picture is Chris Lambesis,” one junior officer told investigators.

In a written statement, the National Guard said Lambesis came under investigation last year when several subordinates lodged complaints alleging the colonel “was a toxic leader and a bully who created a hostile work environment.”

Those charges, and other accusations of hostility, led an administrative tribunal to discharge Lambesis honorably from full-time duty. He is now a “weekend warrior,” being told to drill part-time, or retire his commission.

But Lambesis is not giving up, and he still wants an independent investigation.

“We’re taught to hunker down and take on the charge,” he said. “I’ve been under fire in the fox hole, basically shooting at anything that jingles my wire for the past year. … I believe the institution of the Army is at risk.”

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