The Army has formally suspended Col. James H. Johnson III as commander of the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which has about 3,300 soldiers in Italy and Germany. The Army took action Feb. 17, according to Col. Bryan Hilferty, chief of public affairs for U.S. Army Europe.

“He’s been suspended,” Hilferty said, declining to comment further since the case is under investigation.

In response to written questions, Hilferty characterized the suspension as temporary pending resolution of the probe. No one else has been suspended or relieved in connection with Johnson’s case, he said.

Col. Kyle Lear, the deputy commanding officer of the 173rd, has been named as the interim commander, Hilferty said.

Johnson took command of the brigade in October 2008 and led it through a yearlong rotation to Afghanistan that ended late last year. The unit, which traces its lineage back to World War I, includes Salvatore Giunta, the first living Medal of Honor recipient for actions in the current wars. He received the medal for events in 2007.

Before becoming brigade commander, Johnson headed up the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment.

The 173rd Brigade is based in Vicenza, Italy, and includes six battalions. Two battalions are in Vicenza, and four are in Germany, with three of them in Bamberg. The fourth battalion is in Schweinfurt.

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