Controversial general headed to Fort Benning
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: June 10, 2005
Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, the former second-in-command in Iraq — criticized for leadership failures in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal but cleared of wrongdoing recently in an Army investigation — has been selected to head up the Army’s infantry operations and training at Fort Benning, Ga.
“For an infantryman, that’s the primo job,” said Col. Roger King, spokesman for U.S. Army Europe, where Wojdakowski has served as deputy commander for the past four months. “Chief of infantry, it’s sometimes called. It’s a big job. It’s a good job.”
Formally, Wojdakowski’s new title will be commander of Fort Benning’s Infantry Center and commandant of the Infantry School, according to a Pentagon news release. He replaces Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, who has been tapped to head up the 10th Mountain Division in Fort Drum, N.Y.
Wojdakowski could not be reached for comment.
Despite the new assignment, the arc of Wojdakowski’s career — and that of his former boss, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez — remains uncertain. The Pentagon has declined to reveal plans for Sanchez, who remains V Corps commander two years after taking over the post.
Promotions and most moves of lieutenant generals and generals are subject to U.S. Senate approval, and, according to an official at the General Officer Management Office, the Senate exerts robust oversight in the same way it does on federal judge appointments.
That would make promotion of either Sanchez or Wojdakowski a political matter. Both generals have been excoriated by, among others, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights First, who say the military has scapegoated enlisted soldiers and protected its leaders.
And despite their exoneration of wrongdoing in April by an Army inspector general, a shadow may remain.
“I guess I’d compare it to a foreclosure,” said the official. “Would it damage your credit rating even if you were redeemed? Even if it’s unjust, even if it’s beyond your control, it’s still on your record.”
Wojdakowski, who served in Iraq as V Corps deputy commander under Sanchez, has worked since February across the street from V Corps at its parent command, U.S. Army Europe. There, he was “special assistant” to U.S. Army Europe’s commander, Gen. B.B. Bell.
Wojdakowski’s slot was temporary and he assumed that position while he, along with Sanchez and three other top leaders, were under investigation by the inspector general to determine whether they should face any penalty for leadership failures in connections with prisoner abuse. Wojdakowski was responsible for overseeing support to detention facilities and for direct oversight of the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade and 800th Military Police Brigade at Abu Ghraib prison.
The IG report exonerated Wojdakowski, Sanchez and two other of the most senior Army officers overseeing Iraq prison policies and operations. According to a report in The New York Times, senior officials associated with the investigation cited mitigating circumstances in how senior Army leadership performed, a shortage of senior officers and an upsurge in insurgent violence among them.
But several of the previous investigations launched after soldiers’ own photographs of some of the prisoner abuse were aired in the media, found top leadership wanting.