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Army to Reprimand 11 in Sexual Harassment Case

September 11, 1997|PAUL RICHTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Under pressure from Congress, the Army has decided to discipline the former commander of the Army's Aberdeen Ordnance Center and about 10 other officers and soldiers for their roles in the sex scandal that erupted last year at the Maryland training school.

The former center commander, Maj. Gen. Robert Shadley, has received a letter of reprimand in his personnel file, according to Pentagon officials. The move--generally a career-ending form of punishment in the military--reflects the Army's view that, though the infractions took place at some distance from Shadley in the center's hierarchy, they reflected a serious command failure.

The other punishments, details of which are to be disclosed today as the Army announces the results of a lengthy study of sexual misconduct in its ranks, will affect battalion and brigade commanders and senior noncommissioned officers at the sprawling equipment-testing center, based at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Most, if not all, of the disciplinary actions will be career-ending, officials said.

The Army's investigation of the scandal found numerous instances of consensual and forced sex between drill sergeants and female trainees at Aberdeen and other Army training bases, in violation of rules designed to protect young recruits. Twelve soldiers at Aberdeen have been charged in the scandal, including four who received prison terms ranging from four months to 25 years.

The Army's investigation uncovered similar infractions by drill instructors at other Army training bases around the country. But the disciplinary actions to be announced today concern only Aberdeen.

In July, some officers said Shadley's transfer to another post indicated the Army had decided he would not be held culpable for the misconduct. But news that Shadley might escape punishment brought expressions of concern from some lawmakers, including Rep. Jane Harman (D-Torrance), who said she believed accountability extended through the chain of command.

Army officials insisted Wednesday that the timing of the move against Shadley reflected the service's slow and careful pace in trying to determine who should be punished.

Shadley has indicated that he will contest the letter of reprimand, Army officials said. He is now deputy chief of staff for logistics and readiness at Ft. McPherson, Ga., which--as home of Army Forces Command--oversees deployment of all U.S. troops.

Testimony in the Aberdeen cases portrayed the ordnance center as having an atmosphere far removed from a spartan Army post. The drill sergeants played a game of sexual conquest with their recruits, sometimes pursuing the same women and covering for each others' activities when officers were around.

The Aberdeen scandal was followed by a series of revelations about alleged sexual harassment and rule-bending romances by senior Army officials. Even now, the service's top enlisted man, Army Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney, is awaiting word on whether he will face a court-martial on allegations by six women of sexual harassment.

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