The Army has sacked a two-star general who sent flirty messages to the wife of an enlisted soldier at his post in Italy, including one in which he referred to the woman as a “HOTTIE.”
Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington until last month had commanded U.S. Army Africa from his post in Europe. USA TODAY first reported about the Facebook messages, triggering an inspector general’s investigation, Harrington’s suspension and now his firing.
Harrington’s dismissal was “due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command,” Army Col. Patrick Seiber, a spokesman, said in a statement. “The Army has been investigating allegations related to Maj. Gen. Harrington’s communications with the spouse of an enlisted soldier; however, since the review of the investigation is still ongoing, we can provide no further comment at this time.”
Harrington’s removal is likely a career-killer for an officer whose future had seemed bright. He had been a top aide to the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey.
Like several generals before him who have been snared in sex scandals, Harrington will probably be reassigned until the investigation is complete and then a board of officers will determine the rank in which he last served satisfactorily. That will determine his rank in retirement.
Ending Harrington’s career is the appropriate punishment, if this is a single incident, said Don Christensen, the Air Force’s former chief prosecutor and president of Protect Our Defenders, a group that advocates on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military. The Army must conduct a thorough investigation to determine if there are other instances or victims, he said.
“It would be rather unusual for him to have done this for the first time in his 50s,” Christensen said.
The Army has seen several senior officers felled by scandal in recent years. They include Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, the former top adviser to then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, whose lavish tabs at strip bars on an official trip killed his career. He was stripped of a star, as was Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, whose relationship with a subordinate woman drew scrutiny. The Air Force and Navy have seen the careers of senior officer end in disgrace.
A series of incidents
Most recently, the most senior ranks of the Navy have come under scrutiny after it was revealed that the spokesman for the Chief of Naval operations had been allowed to stay on the job after being accused of sexual misconduct while dressed as Santa Claus at an office Christmas party.
That story triggered a call by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and a member of the Armed Services Committee, for an inspector general’s investigation to determine if Navy Adm. John Richardson showed favoritism to his aide, Cdr. Chris Servello.
Harrington and the woman, decades his junior, exchanged dozens of messages, many of them personal and referring to her appearance. He called her a “HOTTIE” in one, and others in which he acknowledged her husband, a sergeant, would not be happy with the relationship.
Harrington also asked her to delete the messages. She didn’t, and many of them were shared with USA TODAY.
Until he was suspended, Harrington had the authority to order cases to go to court martial, including those involving sexual assault and harassment, as well as any involving the woman’s husband.
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