This still frame made from video provided by CBS "This Morning" on Nov. 20 shows Rebecca Sinclair, wife of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, during an interview with the television show. As Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair faces a string of sexual misconduct charges involving female officers, Rebecca Sinclair is seeking to stir a broader look at often taboo subjects in military marriages: adultery, the strain of separation and the stress of war. (CBS "This Morning" via AP)
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The wife of the brigadier general accused of adultery and other sexual misconduct is using the spotlight to discuss the taboo topic of adultery in the military.
Rebecca Sinclair, the wife of Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, is linking marital infidelity with the strains of war — though she does not excuse her husband's conduct, she told Army Times.
She draws a correlation between infidelity and the high tempo of repeated deployments and frequent separations soldiers and their spouses have experienced.
"When you're separated as a couple for years at a time and under great strain and stress, I can see how it happens," she said. "I can understand it, but it doesn't make it any less painful for me personally."
Her husband, the one-star former deputy commander of the 82nd Airborne Division for support in Afghanistan, was abruptly relieved in May and is to be arraigned Jan. 22.
She said her husband was honest with her after the allegations against him came to light and has since passed two polygraph tests in connection with the case.
"This has really been a challenging time for us, and Jeff and I are working through this," Mrs. Sinclair said. "I'm not excusing his behavior, and I'm not trying to say this is all happening because of deployments. But I am saying there is a correlation."
At preliminary hearings last month at Fort Bragg, N.C., one of his female subordinates testified about her three-year affair with the general and an alleged forcible sodomy charge, and two other subordinates testified they sent the general nude pictures at his request.
Brig. Gen. Sinclair and his attorneys have retained the New Jersey public relations firm MWW to provide media relations and communications strategy support as he awaits a court-martial. Aided by the firm, Sinclair's wife has appeared on CBS "This Morning" and has done interviews with Reuters and The Associated Press, among other outlets. She became publicly vocal about the case after retired Gen. David Petraeus announced he was resigning as director of the CIA over an extramarital affair.
Mrs. Sinclair did not attend the hearings, and she declined to discuss them or the charges in detail when speaking with Army Times. While she concedes her husband committed adultery, she said she was confident that he will be found not guilty of forcible sodomy.
"At his Article 32, things were brought out, and it was indeed a consensual relationship," she said of her husband's affair. "There were text [messages] and journal entries demonstrating this. My hope is that we can mend our marriage and move on as a family."
Mrs. Sinclair said she was motivated to speak out to "make the best out of a bad situation."
"I wanted Army families and military families to know they're not alone with this," Mrs. Sinclair said of her husband's case. "This 11-year war we're in has consequences for our families, our children and our relationships."
The Sinclairs have been married for all of Brig. Gen. Sinclair's 27-year career. They have moved 17 times. The eldest of their two children had attended six schools by sixth grade.
"My husband has been home five years out of the last 11," Mrs. Sinclair said.
Over the course of the war, her husband progressed from a role as the chief of the plans and training division at the Fort Bragg-based Joint Special Operations Command; to executive officer of the 3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division; commander of the 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized); operations officer for 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized); to commander of the 172nd Heavy Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
"My husband's an infantry officer. When you're an infantry officer, this is your job," Mrs. Sinclair said. "There are only so many combat brigades in the Army, and you are going to deploy. If my husband had been a [judge advocate general] officer or a medical service corps officer, I'm sure you'd have more flexibility. That's not my experience because my soldier is an infantry officer and that's what he does."
Although it makes news when the adulterous soldier is a high-ranking officer, Mrs. Sinclair said she knows people at all ranks who have been affected — which, in part, fueled her decision to speak publicly about her own situation.
"A lot of times, we don't hear about it because if it happens at a junior rank," she said, "the soldier is disciplined, reduced in rank, his family decides what he would like to do, and he is back in position. He has to earn back rank and grade again — where for a senior leader, it's a little more challenging."
Brig. Gen. Sinclair was referred to a court-martial on Dec. 19. At Article 32 evidentiary hearings at Fort Bragg in November, a captain testified that Brig. Gen. Sinclair, her direct superior, twice forced her to perform oral sex and threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone about the illicit relationship.
The woman testified that she had a three-year affair with the general at Army bases in the U.S., Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan.
A married captain testified that the general repeatedly asked her to send him nude photos of herself and, eventually, she placated the married general by sending him downloaded pornographic photos of other women cropped so their faces weren't visible.