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General Is Relieved of Command Over 'Personal Conduct'

August 10, 2005|Mark Mazzetti | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes has been relieved of his command for "matters of personal conduct," the Army announced Tuesday, the first time in a decade that a four-star officer has been stripped of his duties.

The Pentagon offered few details about the decision, although defense officials said the Pentagon's inspector general for months had been investigating allegations of sexual misconduct by Byrnes, who was sacked Monday as commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, known in military circles as TRADOC.

"The investigation upon which this relief is based is undergoing further review to determine the appropriate final disposition of this matter," the Army said in a brief statement. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker made the decision to relieve Byrnes, officials said.

One of 11 four-star generals in the Army, Byrnes, 55, was in charge of training programs and the development of combat guidelines for soldiers. His position at TRADOC, which gave him command of 33 training schools on 16 Army installations, is considered one of the most prestigious in the Army.

The decision is especially dramatic since Army officials said Byrnes had planned to retire in the fall.

Defense officials said that although the investigation had been completed, it had not been determined whether Byrnes would be demoted or whether criminal charges would be brought against him.

Generals and admirals are frequently relieved of command, but rarely is such drastic action taken against four-star officers. The last time that one was removed was in 1995, when Navy Adm. Richard C. Macke -- head of the U.S. Pacific Command -- was forced into early retirement after making comments that three Marines accused of raping an Okinawan girl should have just hired a prostitute.

In 1990, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Michael J. Dugan was fired for revealing to the media the United States' strategy for bombing Iraq during the run-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Byrnes, a New York native, had been in his position since 2002. Before that, he was director of the Army staff at the Pentagon. He previously served as commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division, which put him in charge of multinational forces in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1998 and 1999.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, asked during a press briefing Tuesday about the decision to relieve Byrnes, declined to provide further details.

"It's a matter that just came up today, to my knowledge. And it's something that's being handled in the proper channels. And it's not something that it would be appropriate for me to get involved with," Rumsfeld said.

The Army announced in April that Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace would succeed Byrnes at TRADOC. But Wallace has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Until he is, Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones, TRADOC's deputy commanding general and chief of staff, has been installed as acting head of the command, Army officials said Tuesday.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon adopted new guidelines on sexual assault reporting and investigations intended to make it easier for victims to come forward. The move, which followed sexual assault scandals at the Air Force Academy, also were designed to improve education and training about prevention and response.

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