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173rd Airborne commander relieved of duty

By KEVIN DOUGHERTY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 25, 2011

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Army has relieved Col. James H. Johnson III of command of the 173rd Airborne Brigade for serious allegations “that were substantiated” following an extensive review, said the deputy commander of V Corps.

The Army announced its decision on Johnson late Friday. Col. Kyle Lear is serving as the acting commander until Johnson’s replacement arrives this summer. However, it didn’t go into any detail about Johnson’s transgressions, or whether he will be court-martialed.

Brig. Gen. Allen W. Batschelet, Johnson’s direct supervisor, said in a telephone interview that Johnson faced “a number of allegations that were (later) substantiated.” Commanders need to be held to the highest standards, he said.

“Once this is compromised, we have an obligation to take action,” Batschelet said. “These sorts of things can become a distraction.”

While the Army says it can’t elaborate on the allegations against Johnson, talk of the colonel’s troubles are the grist of rumors, particularly in the communities where the brigade is based.

“It’s a pretty grave decision we had to make,” Batschelet said of relieving Johnson. “We hold commanders to the highest standards.”

Based in Vicenza, Italy, the brigade includes six battalions. Two battalions are in Vicenza, and four are in Germany, with three of them in Bamberg. The fourth battalion is based in Schweinfurt.

Johnson assumed command of the brigade in October 2008. He led it on a yearlong tour of Afghanistan, with the brigade returning to Europe late last year. The Army suspended Johnson as commander Feb. 17. On Friday, the suspension was lifted.

“He’s officially relieved of command at this point,” said Lt. Col. Rumi Nielson-Green, a spokeswoman for U.S. Army Europe.

doughertyk@estripes.osd.mil

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