An investigation is underway following allegations that the two-star general in charge of U.S. Marines in Europe and Africa used a racial slur during a training event, Stars and Stripes reported last week.
“We are aware of the allegations,” said Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marine Corps spokesman. “The Marine Corps takes all allegations of misconduct seriously, regardless of rank, and appropriate actions will be taken if the allegations are substantiated.”
Stars and Stripes received confirmation of the situation after asking if Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary, commander of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa, used a racial slur for black people while other Marines were present. Several Marines notified Stars and Stripes of the derogatory comments after comments about the incident made their way around the Stuttgart area where Marine Forces Europe and Africa is based.
“When allegations are made against a Marine, each Marine is afforded due process,” Butterfield said. “There is no additional information available at this time pending the conclusion of the investigation.”
Despite the allegations and subsequent investigation, Neary remains in command, Butterfield said. While the Marine Corps did not expand on the incident, they did not deny that the accusation involves Neary using a racial slur.
This development comes as the United States is stricken with months of racial unrest that was sparked after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department.
As protests started popping up across the country, Gen. David Berger, commandant of the Marine Corps, issued a statement to the Corps that prejudice, “direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional,” would not be tolerated.
The Marines have come under fire in recent months for their apparent lack of diversity in leadership positions. In August, The New York Times published a story called “The Few, the Proud, the White.” The article pointed out that only seven out of 82 generals in the Marine Corps are Black.
In April, the commandant of the Marine Corps attempted to face the racial tensions head-on by ordering that all Confederate battle flags be removed from Marine bases.
“Current events are a stark reminder that it is not enough for us to remove symbols that cause division — rather, we also must strive to eliminate division itself. The trust Marines place in one another on a daily basis demands this,” said Berger.
Neary previously served as deputy commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C. He also led Marines as a battalion commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Fallujah and Ramadi.