Alaska Air National Guard bias trial continues

Posted: Friday, April 27, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A bias trial against the Alaska Air National Guard continued Thursday in Fairbanks.

Steve Armstrong, a 40-year-old Athabascan Indian, says his former supervisor, Steve Stalker, treated him more harshly than the rest of his co-workers at the 168th Air Refueling Wing at Eielson Air Force Base. Armstrong worked at the refueling wing from 1996 to 1998.

Armstrong also says a white man was hired to fill a position for which he was more qualified. Currently Armstrong works as a full-time civilian employee in the supply department of the Guard.

''Just about every time I completed a task he criticized me,'' Armstrong said of Stalker during testimony Wednesday in U.S. District Court. ''He didn't like the way I answered the phone.''

Armstrong contends that Stalker constantly called him ''Goober'' and ''idiot,'' a claim that was supported by two former co-workers.

But Air National Guard defense counsel Retta Randall contends Stalker treated everybody badly and didn't single anyone out. Stalker remains employed by the Guard.

Three of Armstrong's former co-workers, including the man hired for the full-time position, agreed that Stalker was hard to work with. Two of them contend that Armstrong was singled out. Armstrong was the only minority in an office of five people.

''If he (Armstrong) made a mistake, he was berated,'' said Glen Cruse, a former co-worker. ''If I heard about my errors, it was in passing ... With other people in the shop, he (Stalker) was either neutral or friendly.''

Training supervisor Doug Hubbart testified that Stalker unjustly put Armstrong on probation to receive additional training.

''He pretty much wanted me to agree that Steve (Armstrong) wasn't performing up to the standards,'' Hubbart said. ''Steve was doing so well, he didn't need to be put in that program.''

Armstrong is seeking an unspecified amount of money to cover emotional distress, pain and suffering, as well as back wages.

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