The Army has temporarily relieved a South Korea-based battalion commander and his command sergeant major pending the outcome of command and criminal investigations into “allegations of racism, bigotry and discrimination in one of our formations,” according to a statement published to Eighth Army’s social media channels from its commander, Army Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson III.
“The [2nd Infantry] Division Commander has suspended the Battalion Commander and Command Sergeant Major of the 602d Aviation Support Battalion pending the outcome of their investigation,” said Burleson in his statement. “These actions do not presuppose any outcome and are intended to ensure a full, fair, and impartial inquiry.”
The 602nd Aviation Support Battalion is part of the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade, which is based at Camp Humphreys, South Korea.
“Per my previous post...leader actions immediately in progress,” said Army Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, referencing a tweet he made on Dec. 11. In his earlier post, Abrams said he “received an anonymous report of discrimination, bigotry, and racism in one of our formations from a USFK family member” who used an online reporting tool.
The Army did not release the names of the suspended leaders and officials contacted by Military Times declined to confirm their identities.
There are three investigations ongoing, per Burleson’s statement: a command investigation by 2nd Infantry Division, a command investigation by Eighth Army, and an investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.
“Racism, bigotry and hate have no place in our military, and will NOT be tolerated; they erode the very fabric of trust in our formations,” said Col. Lee Peters, USFK spokesman. “USFK remains committed to creating an environment free of discrimination where everyone is treated with dignity and respect regardless of race, religion, color, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin.”
Burleson, the Eighth Army commander, also encouraged other troops and their family members experiencing racism, bigotry, or discrimination to utilize reporting options available on the Eighth Army’s Equal Opportunity webpage.
2nd Infantry Division and CID officials declined to release more information about the allegations, citing the ongoing investigations.
“There is no place for discrimination, bigotry or racism,” said Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton, 2nd Infantry Division spokesperson, in an email to Military Times. “We take every accusation seriously, and investigate it thoroughly.”
“I can confirm that CID has an open criminal investigation,” explained Chris Grey, CID’s chief of public affairs. “We will not be releasing any further information at this time to protect the integrity of the investigative process.”
Officials from Eighth Army did not immediately respond to questions from Military Times seeking additional information about the allegations and investigations.
This piece has been updated to add statements from 2nd Infantry Division and CID officials.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.