When it comes to showing soldiers the Army really does hold leaders accountable, the service has a less than stellar record.
This month, the Army announced the removal of a 1-star general, the commanding officer of Fort Jackson, S.C., on allegations of adultery and misconduct.
The announcement came in a release with few specifics. But even that was much more than is usually announced.
Over the past four years, Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno’s office says 50 officers were removed for conduct generically described as “loss of confidence,” “poor command climate,” “inappropriate relationships” and other such generalities. They are usually quietly removed without notice to soldiers — or anyone else.
The Army justifies the quiet removals, saying that once the problem is solved, there’s really no need to publicize it.
“We are relieving people, battalion and brigade commanders ... and we will continue to do that,” Odierno said. “The units know, and to me, that’s what it’s about. We’re taking action against commanders who are creating environments that are not acceptable.”
The Army can — and should — do better.
Army leaders are entrusted with millions of dollars worth of equipment and scores of personnel. The American people have a right to know when those commanders have failed to care for the gear their taxes pay for, or have mistreated their loved ones in uniform.
Openness serves to foster consistency in how reliefs are handled and to demonstrate that the commanders were treated fairly.
The Navy has shown that reliefs can be open and fair, providing details and “lessons learned,” an unambiguous message that the buck stops with them.