VICENZA, Italy — The commander of U.S. Army Europe told garrison officials last week that two of the factors that led him to lose confidence in Col. David Buckingham’s ability to command were dropping the “F-bomb” during a public berating of a military police officer, and an investigation that indicated some under his command felt disregarded.
A military officer present at a meeting USAREUR commander Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr. had last week with about 100 garrison employees said Campbell stressed those two factors helped form his decision. The officer present at the meeting was not authorized to discuss the matter and so declined to be identified.
Buckingham was suspended from his job as commander of U.S. Army Garrison Vicenza hours after the July 3 incident, sparked by a huge traffic jam after an Independence Day celebration at Caserme Ederle. Buckingham was frustrated that a garrison gate had not been opened as was planned to let traffic flow freely and made his frustration known to the enlisted MP, loudly and publicly, according to several people who were either there or had knowledge of the matter.
Campbell said at the meeting that Buckingham, an infantry officer who’d been commander for more than two years when he was relieved Sept. 6, was not a “toxic leader,” the officer said. But, Campbell said, Buckingham had behaved unprofessionally and failed to treat the MP with dignity, qualities required of all commanders as the military modernizes. The incident sparked an investigation that turned up others under his command who said they felt excluded from Buckingham’s team.
Campbell told the group that, contrary to initial reports, there was no evidence showing Buckingham was drunk when he dressed down the MP, the officer who attended said.
Buckingham has denied drinking before the incident and apologized for losing his temper in an email to the Army Times.
“I understand that military leaders must be above reproach and agree they should neither lose their tempers nor use profanity, and I am truly sorry for the brief unprofessional behavior I displayed and for which I was relieved from the privilege of command,” the Army Times quoted the email as saying.
Buckingham declined to comment for publication when contacted this week. He remains in Vicenza assigned to other, unspecified duties.
Several people at the meeting with Campbell praised Buckingham’s work as commander, according to the officer. Supporters questioned whether previous conflicts between Buckingham and MPs had played a role. Buckingham, a supporter said, had been trying to get MPs to “take a better approach to community policing ...”
The MPs filed a Serious Incident Report after the confrontation that quickly made its way to Campbell. Most commonly, the reports involve suicides or murders and other significant crimes. But regulations specify that maltreatment of soldiers, including “assaults, abuse or exploitation” by superiors, should also be reported.