The Army, and military in general, has two different business models. They have a public business model which is the one we get to hear about when an official spokesperson gives a statement and says, “the Army strives to create and preserve an environment free from discrimination and harassment.” Then there’s the private business model. This is the one experienced most by those actually serving. It runs contrary to every commander’s policy and never gets spoken about in front of audiences, but it’s familiar to every soldier who has personally experienced, or knows someone who’s experienced, the injustice of a leader who’s broken policies and walked away unscathed. This is the model the Army insists doesn’t exist.
We used the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request the results of an investigation that took place on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. We were tipped off about the investigation when a person familiar with what happened told us the Commanding General of 7th Infantry Division, Major General Stephen Smith, swept an investigation into one of his Assistant Chiefs of Staff (ACofS) under the rug, despite the allegations of the investigation being substantiated by the Investigating Officer (IO).
The 7ID G4 was accused of violating the Equal Opportunity Program along with bullying, gender discrimination and failure to treat individuals with dignity and respect. According to the IO, the investigation was found to be legally sufficient.
The IO stated, “based on a preponderance of the evidence, I find [redacted] actions did constitute bullying, creating the perception of gender discrimination and failure to treat individuals with dignity and respect.
The investigation centered around allegations that both the G4 (a Lieutenant Colonel) and his Sergeant Major treated females worse than males. Specifically, the G4 was accused of yelling at females but not at males, talking down to women and treating them like they were stupid without valuing their input, and even telling one of the female officers she couldn’t make a career out of the Army because she was a single parent.
Aside from gender discrimination, personnel within the section stated that the entire atmosphere changed when the G4 arrived. They had to walk on eggshells around the G4 because they were unsure what mood he would be in from day to day. He went from high fiving people one day to berating them the next. Some of the personnel stated this was the worst unit they had ever served in, specifically because of what they experienced while working in the section.
The IO stated that based on the statements of those in the section and other members of 7ID, subordinates were negatively affected by the emotional aggression. He found that the G4 violated AR 600-20, para. 6-2 when he created a perception of unlawful discrimination. He found that gender discrimination had occurred.
The IO’s recommendations for actions to be taken against the G4 were redacted, however, his recommendation for the SGM was removal “from his position as 7ID, G4 Section NCOIC immediately.”
The IO was clear that only two out of the fifteen people he questioned didn’t corroborate the allegations of EO violations, while the overwhelming majority of personnel he spoke to corroborated the allegations and each other’s statements. However, when the findings went up to MG Smith, they were dismissed across the board.
Despite the overwhelming findings from the Investigating Officer, MG Smith wrote “the evidence does not establish by a preponderance that [redacted] intentionally or unintentionally committed gender discrimination.” He wrote “I find that [redacted] gave correction, as well as praise, equally without regard to gender.”
MG Smith allowed both the G4 and his SGM to return to their positions untarnished and even remain in everyone’s rating chain; the same people who created sworn statements against the two. The G4 was allowed a normal Permanent Change of Station (PCS) and even pinned on COL. The SGM stayed in until December ’22. One of the individuals I interviewed even told me that the “7ID Command Sergeant Major apologized to the G4 section and said he should have been removed sooner.”
As I stated, there are two different policies in the Army. There is the sugar coated policy to throw in front of the public and issue to reporters, and then there’s the real policy that soldiers experience far too often. Nothing MG Smith did was illegal or in violation of his authority, but therein lies the problem. The Army has made a grandstanding effort to publicly applaud their actions towards ridding the force of gender discrimination and bias, but the reality is far different. Even recently a Major General was lauded by his socialite friends of being a champion of women publicly, yet his actions on social media proved far different than the carefully scripted narrative presented to the public. A female under his chain of command was even sexually assaulted while the perpetrator only received a reprimand from him. The military is a carefully controlled environment, but I’d wager to say the purpose is more for protecting images and certain individuals rather than creating a more lethal force, or even an environment that allows its personnel to thrive. There is a very real danger to America’s sons and daughters when serving in the armed forces, yet much of that is due to the cowardly and self serving motives of the elite few and less to the dangers of combat.