Joint Base Lewis-McChord’s highest-ranking officers on Friday endorsed a Pentagon review of ethics training for top leaders while they cast the scandals tarnishing the reputations of two of the country’s best-known generals as exceptions to Army standards.
“It hurts because I love the Army and I always have,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan, the deputy commanding general of Lewis-McChord’s I Corps. “Things like this besmirch our reputation.”
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta this week asked Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey to evaluate ethics programs for the military’s most senior officers for a report due by Dec. 1.
Panetta’s request follows news of retired Gen. David Petraeus resigning from his post as CIA director because of an extramarital affair with his biographer.
The Petraeus affair caused ripples of surprise all the way across the country at Lewis-McChord.
“I never thought I’d hear the term ‘sex scandal’ and Dave Petraeus in the same sentence,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, commander of the Western Regional Medical Command, who has served with Petraeus. Thomas oversees Army hospitals in 20 states from his headquarters at Lewis-McChord.
The Petraeus saga also ensnared Marine Gen. John Allen, the top commander in Afghanistan, because of his frequent emails with Jill Kelley, the Tampa socialite who led the FBI to Petraeus’ affair. Allen’s promotion to NATO commander is on hold while the investigation unfolds.
The Associated Press obtained the memo Panetta wrote to Dempsey asking for the broader ethics review.
“When lapses occur, they have the potential to erode public confidence in our leadership and in our system for the enforcement of high ethical standards,” Panetta wrote. “Worse, they can be detrimental to the execution of our mission to defend the American people.”
The review also comes amid a high-profile judicial hearing in North Carolina for Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, who is accused of sexually harassing his subordinates.
And it follows the demotion this week of Gen. William “Kip” Ward for his misuse of government money on luxury travel for him and his wife.
Four Lewis-McChord leaders talked about ethics during a wide-ranging session with local news media on Friday.
“I applaud the secretary and the chairman for going after any behavior that is in contrast to our values,” Buchanan said.
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, Lewis-McChord’s senior Army officer, said that “99.9 percent of general officers are doing the right thing.”
“They’re human beings; we’re all human beings. Human beings make mistakes,” he said.
The most forceful defense of the Army’s top leadership came from I Corps Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell. He is Lewis-McChord’s senior noncommissioned officer, and he reports to Brown.
“Every general I have served with from 2008 until now, including my current boss and deputy, pride themselves on leading by example,” Troxell said.
“If there are generals out there who think they’re walking on water, it’s because there are folks out there doing things for them they shouldn’t be doing,” such as treating the generals like stars by fetching meals or carrying bags.
Thomas said the Army will learn from the scandals.
“We take a look at ourselves. We examine what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong,” he said, “and that’s what’s going on now.”Adam Ashton: 253-597-8646 adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com