High-ranking Alaska National Guard officer arrested on domestic violence assault charges

A man in a military uniform speaks at a podium
Brig. Gen. Wayne Don, director of joint staff for the Alaska National Guard, gives a speech after being promoted from colonel to brigadier general at a ceremony in Wasilla, on Feb. 7, 2021. (Edward Eagerton/U.S. Army National Guard)

One of the Alaska National Guard’s highest-ranking officers was arrested over the weekend in Anchorage and charged with domestic violence assault for the second time since November.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Don was promoted to that rank in 2021 and was in charge of the Guard’s joint staff. The Guard highlighted that he had become its highest-ranking Alaska Native member serving at the time. 

In November, Anchorage police responded to a report of domestic violence at Don’s wife’s home. According to a charging document, Don’s wife told police they had argued, he was drinking and that he had grabbed her by the wrist and hair. Police saw a red mark on her wrist, found holes in a wall and a bedroom door, and smelled alcohol on him. Police arrested Don and charged him with misdemeanor assault for domestic violence and a misdemeanor for property damage.

In April, the parties made a deal. If Don pleaded no contest to the property damage charge, the prosecutors would drop the domestic violence assault charge. Don would also have to refrain from drinking alcohol for six months and complete a treatment program, attend counseling sessions monthly, avoid contact with his wife and avoid any other criminal charges. If it had gone smoothly, he would have been sentenced in October.

It didn’t go smoothly. This past Sunday, police again arrested Don at his wife’s home. According to charges in that case, he was drinking and assaulted his wife again. He is charged with domestic violence assault and violating conditions of release. 

The charges say police came because Don was threatening suicide and blaming his wife “for losing a career.”

Civilian criminal convictions can lead to military officers losing their posts.

Alaska National Guard spokesman Alan Brown said in an email that Don was removed from his authority and put on administrative status back in November, pending resolution of his initial charges. Brown said the Guard is cooperating with civilian authorities.

In Don’s role as director of the joint staff for the Alaska National Guard, he was responsible for communication and coordination between the head of the Alaska National Guard and staff and units of the Air and Army National Guard. The joint staff plans and coordinates response efforts during state disasters and joint military operations.

Brown said an investigation is also ongoing within the military. He said the vice chief of staff of the Army is responsible for handling that.

“We expect every member of the Alaska National Guard to live up to the highest standards of military service,” Brown wrote. “We will take immediate and appropriate action if any of our members is suspected of committing a crime, while ensuring their right to due process.”

Don’s attorney could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. Online records show that Don posted a $300 bond Wednesday and is not in custody.

Don, 51, began his military career in 1994. His assignments included operations in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. He was previously chairman of the regional Calista Corp. board. He is also listed as chairman of the board of NIMA Corp., a village corporation for Nunivak Island, where he grew up. He’s been recognized with various leadership awards.

A man in Army fatigues watches a military exercise
Alaska National Guard Brig. Gen. Wayne Don, observes an exercise during a visit to the Five Hills Training Area in Mongolia on June 7, 2022. (MC3 Kelly Meyer/U.S. Navy)

Don was also a keynote speaker at the 2017 Alaska Federation of Natives Convention

If you’re experiencing a crisis, you can call or text 9-8-8 to talk to someone at the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. 

Jeremy Hsieh covers Anchorage with an emphasis on housing, homelessness, infrastructure and development. Reach him at jhsieh@alaskapublic.org or 907-550-8428. Read more about Jeremy here.

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