ARLINGTON, Va. — A Marine Corps commander who led Marines and coalition forces during Operation Enduring Freedom was unlawfully frocked to brigadier general, a violation of U.S. military code, officials said.

Col. Craig Boddington, a reservist activated in 2001 and deployed to the Persian Gulf, had been instructed by his superior, Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston, to don the one star as he took command of the Combined Joint Task Force Consequence Management, Marine Forces, at Camp Doha, Kuwait.

Frocking is the term used when an officer is selected for promotion, assumes the responsibilities and wears the insignia, but is not being paid at the higher rank’s salary. Frocking required Senate confirmation, which Boddington did not have.

“I felt I was acting under orders from my superior,” Boddington said Friday during a telephone interview. “… Gen. Hailston felt that the combined joint task force required a brigadier general to command it. I was a selectee at the time, and we all believed conformation and frocking authority was forthcoming.”

Hailston frocked Boddington on April 3, 2001, just as Boddington took command of the CJTF-CM. He served until December 2002, when the Defense Department Inspector General’s office began an investigation following an anonymous tip. The CJTF-CM’s mission was to train forces to respond to chemical, biological, nuclear or radiological attacks against forces operating in Afghanistan.

Hailston, who since has submitted his retirement package, served as Commander of U.S. Marine Forces Pacific and U.S. Marine Forces Central Command. He could not be reached for comment Friday. Boddington’s frocking also had the blessing of now-Commandant Gen. Michael Hagee, who was subordinate to Hailston when Hailston recommended Boddington for promotion and instructed him to pin on the one star.

At the time Boddington was frocked, Hagee was commanding officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“We concluded that Generals Hagee and Hailston and Col. Boddington violated, or caused a violation of, the standards that govern frocking of officers and wearing of the insignia of a higher grade,” reads a portion of IG report. “In that regard, all three officers knew Col. Boddington was ineligible to be frocked or to wear the rank insignia of brigadier general without Senate confirmation and yet, engaged in conduct that facilitated Lt. Gen. Hailston’s improper frocking of Col. Boddington.”

Boddington, commander of the Reserve 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Augmentation Command Element at Camp Pendleton, Calif., recently was counseled by the acting Navy Secretary, Hansford Johnson, himself, over the issue.

“I understand that I should have gone outside the chain of command for resolution, but at the time, that didn’t seem like the appropriate action,” Boddington said he told Johnson.

Johnson issued Hailston a letter of censure, and sent a letter to Hagee, noting Hagee’s “limited involvement” in the matter, but did not take any disciplinary action. “I have the utmost confidence in your ability as Commandant, and am certain that you will ensure the lessons of this incident do not go unlearned within the Marine Corps,” reads a portion of Johnson’s Aug. 25 letter.

Hagee, who is traveling in the Pacific, was not available to take questions. His public affairs staff released the following statement: “I fully admit to and accept responsibility for forwarding Lt. Gen. Hailston’s directive to Col. Boddington that he be frocked. In hindsight, I should have further questioned Lt. Gen. Hailston’s directive and pursued other alternatives.”

The tipster complained that Boddington’s wearing of the rank “was creating a morale problem for the troops ‘most of whom believe that he is not entitled to wear the star until he is actually confirmed,’” the IG report states. Investigators found no similar complaints to the Defense Hotline and no other witness voiced concern or awareness, the report states

“He’s one of the better leaders I’ve ever worked for,” said Cpl. Daniel Diaz, 23, who served as Boddington’s bodyguard while deployed to Kuwait. “Morale went up from the time he stepped on deck to the time he left.

“Even though he was a general, he would take care of Marines down to the lowest level. He’s an all-around good guy,” said Diaz, a reservist for more than 3 years.

Boddington, who has been I MACE commander for 2 years, said he knows who made the anonymous tip and why, “but I will not discuss any of that,” he said.

“Morale was somewhat better in November when temperatures were 80 degrees than in July, when it was 140 degrees,” Boddington said. “But in terms of morale being a problem within the unit because of improper frocking, I don’t believe it existed, with the one exception.”

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