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California National Guard Can’t Find 4,000 Soldiers Who Received Improper Payments, Officials Say

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Soldiers attend their farewell ceremony for about 850 California National Guardsmen from the 1st Battalion, 185th Armor on August 22, 2008 in San Bernardino, California. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

The California National Guard can’t locate more than 4,000 of the 9,700 soldiers caught up in the military enlistment bonus scandal that has rocked one of the nation’s largest Guard organizations, according to its commander.

In an internal memo obtained by The Times, Maj. Gen. David Baldwin said the California Guard needed help finding thousands of soldiers who received improper enlistment bonuses or other incentives at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars a decade ago.

Baldwin also wrote that the vast majority of the 9,700 current and former California Guard soldiers who received improper payments did so “unknowingly” and enlisted “in good faith at a time of war.”

His Oct. 27 memo is one of the first unequivocal statements by a senior military official since the bonus scandal surfaced that most California Guard soldiers did not know they were getting money improperly. It suggests most may be eligible to have some or all of their debts forgiven under a Pentagon review.

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