The top officer for a Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington-based rocket artillery battalion was fired in mid-October after facing a sexual harassment investigation barely four months into the job.
A spokesperson for I Corps confirmed to Army Times via email that Lt. Col. H. Bernard West, “the commander of 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment … was relieved of command.” Two soldiers with knowledge of the matter told Army Times the firing came after a sexual harassment investigation, but Lt. Col. Jennifer Bocanegra, a spokesperson for I Corps, declined to provide further details about West’s relief or whether an investigation took place.
However, West’s attorney, Jason Wareham, confirmed that an investigation substantiated the sexual harassment allegations. He insisted that “they remain just that, mere allegations” that “stand in stark contrast” to the lieutenant colonel’s service record.
“[Lt. Col.] West remains confident in the trust he is placing in his command to fully and fairly adjudicate the matter,” Wareham said, adding that the disciplinary process remained in its “early stages” for his client.
West’s former battalion reports to the 17th Field Artillery Brigade, which serves as the I Corps’ fires headquarters. The corps is responsible for most day-to-day Army operations throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Before taking the reins at 1-94 Field Artillery in June, West served as the deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. According to a unit Facebook post, he served as its rear detachment commander during the brigade’s fall 2022 rotational deployment to South Korea.
The Army has stepped up its efforts to eradicate sexual harassment in the ranks since the upheaval sparked by Spc. Vanessa Guillén’s death at Fort Cavazos, Texas, in 2020. Recent military justice reforms have established sexual harassment as a specified offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But watchdogs have warned that reforms aren’t yet hitting the mark, and the Pentagon’s top inspector general announced in July that it is investigating the Army’s systemic efforts to stop and respond to sexual harassment.
West is the nephew of Allen West, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and conservative politician who faced criminal charges and was fired from field artillery battalion command while deployed to Iraq in 2003 after he staged a mock execution of a detainee. He was ultimately forced to retire.
Since being removed from command, the younger West has served in a corps-level staff role while leaders determine whether or not they will pursue further punishment.
Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists' 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.