The Army has temporarily relieved a South Korea-based battalion commander and his command sergeant major pending the outcome of command and criminal investigations into “allegations of racism, bigotry and discrimination in one of our formations,” according to a statement published to Eighth Army’s social media channels from its commander, Army Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson III.
“The [2nd Infantry] Division Commander has suspended the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major of the 602d Aviation Support Battalion pending the outcome of their investigation,” said Burleson in his statement. “These actions do not presuppose any outcome and are intended to ensure a full, fair, and impartial inquiry.”
The 602nd Aviation Support Battalion is part of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which is based at Camp Humphreys, South Korea.
“Per my previous post…leader actions immediately in progress,” said Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, referencing a tweet he made on Dec. 11. In his earlier post, Abrams said he “received an anonymous report of discrimination, bigotry, and racism in one of our formations from a USFK family member” who used an online reporting tool.
Per my previous post…leader actions immediately in progress. https://t.co/vI7nkdvYhs
— Robert Abrams (@DogFaceSoldier) December 13, 2020
The Army did not release the names of the suspended leaders and officials contacted by Military Times declined to confirm their identities.
There are three investigations ongoing, per Burleson’s statement: a command investigation by 2nd Infantry Division, a command investigation by Eighth Army, and an investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
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“Racism, bigotry and hate have no place in our military, and will NOT be tolerated; they erode the very fabric of trust in our formations,” said Col. Lee Peters, USFK spokesman. “USFK remains committed to creating an environment free of discrimination where everyone is treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
Burleson, the Eighth Army commander, also encouraged other troops and their family members experiencing racism, bigotry, or discrimination to utilize reporting options available on the Eighth Army’s Equal Opportunity webpage.
Officials from 2nd Infantry Division, Eighth Army, and CID did not immediately respond to questions from Military Times seeking additional information about the allegations and investigations.
About Davis Winkie
Davis Winkie is a reporting fellow at Military Times. He mainly covers the National Guard and the Army, though he also handles general assignments. He previously worked as a military historian, and he is a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.