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Arab-American soldier files discrimination complaint against Michigan Army National Guard

Oct 22, 2015

Lt. Col. Jason Awadi has filed a federal discrimination complaint against the Michigan Army National Guard.
Credit Rebecca Kruth

A soldier with Iraqi heritage has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the Michigan Army National Guard.

Lt. Col. Jason Awadi said he was unfairly passed up for a promotion to communications director last summer because of his ethnicity.

Awadi said a panel of senior-ranking military officials nominated him for the promotion "unanimously," and he was given "official military orders" to start the new role in October.

Awadi said he started training for the position and had begun the process of relocating his family, when he was summoned to a meeting with Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais near the end of August.

Awadi says Vadnais told him the position was going to another officer.

"The officer [who received the position] is a white male and certainly doesn't have the communication expertise that I have," Awadi said. 

Awadi said when he expressed concern over the officer's appointment, Vadnais told him, "Some people are more deserving then others."

Awadi said he was passed over for a second promotion which also went to a less qualified white officer.

His attorney, Nabih Ayad, said there's been a "pattern and practice of discrimination" in the Michigan National Guard, since Vadnais took over as adjutant general in 2011.

"Of the eight director-level positions in the Guard, zero are held by minorities. Prior to the appointment of Gen. Vadnais, three directorships were held by minorities. However, all three were forced into retirement under similar circumstances and were replaced by non-minorities," Ayad said in a statement.

Awadi said he began his service with the Guard in 1995 and has served multiple combat tours. He said he's the only full-time Arab-American officer within the Michigan Army National Guard.

"After reaching senior officer rank, I'm still treated as an inferior, and I'm not worthy of promotion within the Michigan Army National Guard," Awadi said. "This is the environment Maj. Gen. Gregory J. Vadnais has created."

The Michigan National Guard's public affairs office issued the following statement regarding Awadi's complaint:

The matter with LTC Jason Awadi is under investigation and the Adjutant General is prohibited from commenting as a result.  The Michigan National Guard takes pride in being a diverse organization and that pride is evidenced by our presence in 43 communities around Michigan and an established history of having minorities in leadership positions. The Adjutant General maintains a robust equal opportunity program and will personally ensure that this matter is looked into and given the due process it deserves.  The Adjutant General will provide more information when the issue is resolved and he is able to speak on the matter.