Army Col. Jonathan Chung pictured in June 2021 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

Army Col. Jonathan Chung pictured in June 2021 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (Dean Johnson/U.S. Army)

The embattled commander of the Army’s 5th Security Forces Assistance Brigade was fired last week after a service investigation into toxic leadership claims, according to an Army statement Monday.

Col. Jonathan Chung was relieved by Maj. Gen. Donn Hill, who leads the Army Security Force Assistance Command, over a “loss of confidence … based on the results of an Army Regulation 15-6 investigation,” according to a statement from the command, which is based at Fort Liberty, formerly Fort Bragg, N.C. Chung’s firing comes after he was suspended from command of the 5th SFAB in April amid the command investigation into accusations that he and others harbored a “counterproductive leadership culture.”

Col. Tony Braxton, who took temporary command of the unit when Chung was suspended, will remain in charge of the 5th SFAB, according to the Army statement.

Chung’s suspension came after complaints by soldiers he commanded — now and in the past — that he regularly disparaged subordinates and rebuked soldiers over minor infractions. The command investigation into Chung’s leadership found the colonel “exhibited counterproductive leadership” qualities, according to an Army official who reviewed the 15-6, a non-criminal, command-initiated administrative probe to gather information about allegations against a soldier. The Army declined to make the investigation public on Monday.

Chung has declined wrongdoing. Jeremy Snyder, a civilian attorney for Chung, said Monday that the former commander simply pushed his troops hard to ensure they were prepared for their missions.

Chung is a “dedicated and caring leader who held people accountable to high standards to ensure individual and unit readiness to accomplish the Army mission,” said Snyder of the firm Military Law.

Chung was disappointed in the Army’s decision to remove him from command, Snyder said. The attorney also said Chung faced no further punishment or reprimand from the Army beyond his removal as 5th SFAB commander.

Snyder said some 213 individuals had written letters of support for Chung during the Army investigation, including 47 members of the 5th SFAB. He said those letters came from soldiers in ranks from junior enlisted to general officers.

Chung was commissioned an infantry officer in 1998 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., according to his Army biography. He has commanded infantry units from a platoon through a brigade and served combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq. Before taking command of the 5th SFAB, Chung commanded the 2nd Stryker Brigade of the 2nd Infantry Division. He has also served in the elite 75th Ranger Regiment and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Chung took command of the 5th SFAB, based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in July 2021, becoming its second commander. The unit of soldiers specially trained to advise the armies of partner nations on security operations has focused its efforts on the Indo-Pacific region, where it has helped train partner forces as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to counter Chinese ambitions in the region.

The Pentagon established six SFABs, including one National Guard brigade, between 2017 and 2020 to improve its ability to train partner nation armies. The units have since been geographically aligned to focus their training efforts on specific parts of the globe.

It was not immediately clear Monday what is next for Chung, Snyder said. He expects the former commander to retire as a colonel, but Chung did not yet have a retirement date from the Army.

“He has served this country with selfless service and honor," Snyder said. "And we have no doubt he will continue to lead and impact future generations whether in the Army or as a civilian leader in retirement.”

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Corey Dickstein covers the military in the U.S. southeast. He joined the Stars and Stripes staff in 2015 and covered the Pentagon for more than five years. He previously covered the military for the Savannah Morning News in Georgia. Dickstein holds a journalism degree from Georgia College & State University and has been recognized with several national and regional awards for his reporting and photography. He is based in Atlanta.

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