ARLINGTON, Va. – “There really weren’t a lot of jobs that would’ve made me put down my gardening tools and go back to work full time,” said the National Guard Bureau’s new inspector general. “But this is one.”
After 34 years of military service, including teaching at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard, Dr. Laurie Hummel was ready to slow down when she retired in 2019.
“I was enjoying kicking back with some of the hobbies I had to leave behind during a busy career,” she said.
But when the offer to become the NGB inspector general presented itself, she said it was an opportunity to once again be part of something bigger than herself.
“[It’s] a job where you can help commanders create a safe and respectable and productive and collaborative environment for the Guard family – that’s a win-win,” said Hummel, who became the NGB IG in May.
The importance of the inspector general, and Hummel’s role in that position, can’t be emphasized enough, said Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel, the chief of the NGB.
“Inspectors general are a tremendous asset because they help us uphold trust – trust in the unit, in the Guard, and with the general public,” said Lengyel. “They are our impartial eyes and ears, who make sure we are efficient, effective, and operating within the law.”
Hummel said upholding that trust sometimes requires dispelling myths about the inspector general being “some monolithic, mysterious and scary thing.”
“Let’s take those two words: ‘inspector’ and ‘general.’ So, who really wants to spend a lot of time with either an inspector or a general?” she joked. “Developing trust across the enterprise that [inspectors general] are here to assist can be a challenge.”
Addressing that challenge, she said, involves emphasizing to Guard members the NGB-IG office is composed of “folks dedicated to helping all of us in the National Guard be our best.”
Achieving that comes through a variety of efforts, including inspections, teaching the force and, should they be warranted, investigations, said Hummel.
“When we put all of those together, we work and enable to promote stewardship, accountability, integrity and efficiency,” she said.
Ultimately, the result of that effort enhances readiness and increases mission capability throughout the Guard.
“I think when it comes down to it, that’s what we do,” she said, adding the IG function “helps the National Guard be worthy of its members, and we help Guardsmen and Guardswomen be worthy of their [units].”
Hummel brings a wealth of experience to the table.
After graduating from West Point in 1982, she served in a variety of military intelligence assignments before returning to West Point as an instructor. She served as a faculty member in the school’s Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering and then took on other military intelligence assignments of increasing responsibility.
Along the way she earned a Ph.D. in geography and graduate degrees in educational leadership and strategic studies. She also deployed to Afghanistan, where she served as the senior adviser to the National Military Academy of Afghanistan.
She retired from the active component Army in 2012, but then came back on duty as the adjutant general of the Alaska Guard in 2015 – a post she said will help her navigate some of the challenges in her new role.
“I can certainly identify with the unique challenges of being an adjutant general and the balancing necessary to simultaneously serve the interests of a state, under the leadership of a governor, while also being dependent on the NGB for resourcing, for subject matter expertise, and all of the federal support necessary to execute the federal mission set.”
But executing the IG role, she said, is something that she can’t, and doesn’t, do alone.
“A good IG office is full of [those] who are motivated to help people and organizations be better,” she said. “The NGB-IG is full of these folks.”
Roughly six weeks into her assignment, she said she’s in awe of those colleagues.
“I am already impressed by their intelligence and thoughtfulness,” she said. “They are a group who constantly talk about ways to serve the 54 [states, territories and Washington, D.C.], in addition to serving the chief and the National Guard Bureau.”
Hummel said there’s a lot she can learn from her team, something she sees as a pathway to continued success.
“From a personal perspective, I’d like to think of myself as a lifelong learner,” she said. “A learner tries to listen well and to think deeply and to be very aware of their own biases and limitations. All of those things serve an IG well.”
For Hummel, it boils down to caring for and contributing to the force.
“I still have some gas left in the tank and I [want] to be able to contribute to a National Guard I really care deeply about,” she said. “I want to help the enterprise lean forward as its roles and responsibilities evolve. I want to be on that bow wave of change.”