A former Fort Bragg officer made inappropriate comments about a local congresswoman after the two met in 2011.
Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer made the remarks in emails to Lt. Gen. James L. Huggins and Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair in reference to Renee Ellmers, a Republican who represents North Carolina's 2nd Congressional District.
The emails were brought to light in a Washington Post article Sunday that outlined questionable conduct of several general officers discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Schweitzer, who now works at the Pentagon, was a colonel in the 82nd Airborne Division when he briefed Huggins, then the 82nd Airborne Division commander, and Sinclair, then deputy commanding general for support, on his meeting with Ellmers.
"Briefing went well . she was engaging . had done her homework," Schweitzer wrote in an email, according to an investigative report published online by the Post. "She wants us to know she stands with us and will work/push to get the Fort Bragg family (redacted)."
The email included the comment: "She is smoking hot," the report said.
In subsequent emails, Schweitzer at one point apologized for a delayed response by saying he had masturbated "3 times over the past 2 hours" after meeting Ellmers, The Washington Post reported.
On Monday, Ellmers said she was told of the emails two weeks ago by the vice chief of staff of the Army, Gen. John F. Campbell. Her district includes part of Cumberland County.
"General Campbell provided me with documents that show references made about me and without my knowledge by this individual, and the content was entirely inappropriate of the commanders who are tapped with leading the men and women under their command," Ellmers said. "I was thoroughly impressed with General Campbell's sense of urgency and his willingness to speak with me on these issues and provide all the details that took place during the investigation."
Schweitzer has since said his comments were wrong, calling his emails "childish" and "truly stupid." His personnel file now includes a memorandum of concern in regard to the incident, officials said. And a previously announced promotion has been delayed pending a review.
Schweitzer formerly served as deputy commanding officer for operations of the 82nd Airborne Division and commander of the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
He previously served as an Army liaison to the U.S. Senate.
The emails became known to Army officials during the investigation of one of the recipients, Brig. Gen. Sinclair.
In the emails, Sinclair pressed Schweitzer for additional information, writing "He sucks . still need to confirm hotness," according to the Army report.
Sinclair, a former deputy commanding general for support of the 82nd Airborne Division, is facing a court-martial on unrelated criminal allegations.
He has pleaded not guilty to eight criminal charges, including forcible sodomy, indecent acts, violating orders and adultery. Most of the charges stem from an affair with a female captain who says Sinclair twice forced her to perform oral sex while she served under his command in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was during the investigation of Sinclair that Army prosecutors found Schweitzer's email, according to a copy of the investigative report.
According to that report, Schweitzer testified that he intended his "smoking hot" comment to be humorous.
His subsequent emails reportedly earned him a rebuke from Huggins, who corrected him in person.
According to the report, Schweitzer said the comments were a "misguided attempt to get a laugh from two of my close working partners."
"My comments were a terrible attempt at humor," Schweitzer said, according to the report. "I didn't mean them literally or figuratively, I simply meant them to try and be funny during a very tense period within the command to a limited audience. I know they were not appropriate. It was stupid.
"My comments were wrong," he said. "However, I am an honorable man; live by the Army values and try to do what is right. I am not perfect. This horrible attempt at a joke was simply that, a horrible attempt at a joke. It is not who I am nor is it a representation of my values. I believe I am a good example, and try to live by the right virtues. I am patriotic and do not engage in dissolute or immoral practices."
The Army found the comments vulgar and unacceptable, according to the report. It also found that Schweitzer "failed to demonstrate exemplary conduct" and "used an Army communication system for an unauthorized purpose."
The same Army report found there was "insufficient evidence to identify any impropriety" by Huggins and said Sinclair was not investigated for the emails because of his pending court-martial.
The Army placed a memorandum of concern in Schweitzer's personnel file, according to The Washington Post. The Army is holding a previously announced promotion to major general pending a formal review.
In a statement, Ellmers said she was pleased with the corrective actions taken by the Army and its handling of the situation.
"I will continue to work with our military to ensure that future cases like these are handled effectively and in the same manner that was afforded to me by the professional men and women who were tasked to complete it," Ellmers said.
George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said each of the general officers mentioned in the Post article had been investigated.
"In every one of these cases, it was the United States Army that investigated these allegations, and the United States Army that took appropriation action," Wright said. "These weren't uncovered by the media or some other third party, and there certainly wasn't any attempt to sweep anything under the rug. The Army fully investigates any allegation of misconduct, regardless of severity.
"All of these investigations are reviewed and acted upon on a case-by-case basis," Wright said. "We effectively ended the careers of some of these officers; in other cases, it was determined that the outcome should be less severe."
Wright said the punishment was more than a slap on the wrist.
"While a written reprimand may not sound severe to those outside the military, it's very serious and impacts those officers both professionally and personally," he said. "In addition to discipline for misconduct, it can affect everything from promotions to assignments to retirement pay."