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Maj. Gen. Mike Thompson speaks with KWGS about being fired from leading the Okla. National Guard

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Oklahoma National Guard
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Then-Adjutant General of the Oklahoma National Guard speaks at a Vietnam Veterans Day event at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City on March 29, 2021.

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday fired Maj. Gen. Mike Thompson from his role as Adjutant General of the Oklahoma National Guard. Public Radio Tulsa's Chris Polansky spoke with Thompson by phone Thursday.

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PUBLIC RADIO TULSA: So, I guess I'll start just by asking: What have these last 24 hours been like for you?

MAJ. GEN. MIKE THOMPSON: The last 24 hours have been a little surreal, frankly. Just to get the call in the middle of the afternoon (Wednesday), less than a minute phone call, and the governor told me he was relieving me as adjutant general for Oklahoma. And I kind of asked a couple questions, it didn't go very far, and that was it, you know. And it's just — what do I do now? So, it's just been kind of scramble mode, but that's kind of where it's at right now. It's going to work out. It's just going to take some time to get through it.

PRT: So this came as a surprise?

THOMPSON: Yeah, that's an understatement, yeah. Because we'd already had conversations about me leaving, but not yesterday afternoon.

PRT: Did the governor give you any reason for why he was getting rid of you?

THOMPSON: He did not. And the letter I got didn't have a reason, either.

PRT: Without asking you to speculate too hard, I mean, do you have a sense of why he would fire you or want you gone?

THOMPSON: We've butted heads on a couple of things that are, kind of, you know, a national issue right now. And at the end of the day, the adjutant general, in addition to, you know, looking after the men and women of the National Guard, is to be a military advisor to the governor and give the governor your best advice. And I did that, and we just differ on the advice that I gave him, and that's kind of how it shook out.

PRT: I mean the elephant in the room here is the governor has opposed Guardsmen having to get the COVID vaccine. You've been very supportive of [the vaccine]. He asked the Pentagon to get rid of that requirement. Would it be fair to say this could have to do with that?

THOMPSON: In fairness to the governor, I think that would be a better question for him. I'm just really not there yet where I want to comment on that.

PRT: Yeah. And I should note we reached out to the governor's office and what they say is that they are not going to give any explanation on this at all.

You say you were not even aware a release had gone out from the governor's office about your dismissal and about the promotion of Brig. Gen. [Tommy] Mancino, is that right?

THOMPSON: It's, uh - it doesn't matter. I just, after I got over the shock of it, you know, and I just started looking. I think it was over an hour later when looking at some stuff on social media I saw your post. Because before that, no one — I guess no one thought it was important enough to tell me.

PRT: So I know you're a born and raised Oklahoman. You led the Department of Public Safety before leading the Guard. I mean, this must be difficult for you.

THOMPSON: You know, the job like mine, like the DPS and being the adjutant general, you serve at the pleasure of the governor. And the governor had asked for my resignation, I gave him my resignation. I had asked to get through the end of the year and he agreed that I could stay until January of 2022, and that's kind of what I've been working all my plans toward, and then all of that changed yesterday afternoon.

PRT: When did he ask for your resignation? When did you submit that?

THOMPSON: Sometime in October.

PRT: Oklahomans know you. You've been in the public eye for a while. What should Oklahomans know about Tommy Mancino, who will be the new adjutant general?

THOMPSON: I've known Tommy for a long time, and Tommy's a smart guy, and I'm pulling for him to do a good job and — because if Tommy's successful, the Guard will be successful, and my heart is always going to be with the Guard.

PRT: Do you have any advice for him?

THOMPSON: Oh, I don't think that'd be fair to him, to talk about publicly. It's kind of some private conversations that we've had. I really am pulling for him, though.

PRT: And what's next for you?

THOMPSON: I don't know yet. Got a couple of opportunities out there. I think that I still have more to give, you know, and hopefully some of these opportunities are going to come through because I still work to be eligible for retirement. Just trying to make the best of it right now.

PRT: Public office?

THOMPSON: (laughter) No, no! Good luck with that, my friend. You guys can have that world. I'm good.

PRT: And my last question — what would you say you're proudest of from your time leading the Guard?

THOMPSON: Chris, I'm glad you asked that question. That's one of the things that I can really hold my head up about, because — and you've done a really good job with following it, but — the Guard has just been a home run for everything. From COVID mitigation, to that incredible flood, that once-in-a-century flood that we had in Tulsa in 2019. 2020, you know, got consumed by COVID. 2018 the Oklahoma National Guard was in ten countries, which is not an easy thing to do to get everybody in all those places. And in 2021, when our friends in Louisiana needed us after the hurricane, we sent people there. And we also sent people to the Capitol after the Jan. 6 incident.

So every time the people of Oklahoma or our nation have called, the Guard has always answered. We never said, "Hey, we can't help because we're not ready." And I'm incredibly proud of that.