Racism allegations sideline two Army battalion leaders in South Korea
By JOSEPH DITZLER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 15, 2020
Eighth Army has suspended two top leaders of an aviation battalion in South Korea on allegations of racism, bigotry and discrimination.
Maj. Gen. Steve Gilland of the 2nd Infantry Division suspended the commander and command sergeant major of the 602nd Aviation Support Battalion pending the outcome of an investigation, according to a Facebook post by Eighth Army on Sunday.
The command attributed the statement to commander Lt. Gen. Willard Burleson III. “My intent is to always tackle these challenges head-on,” Burleson was quoted as saying. His statement promised a “a full, fair and impartial inquiry.”
The statement did not specify the allegations against either the commander or command sergeant major. It also did not identify either individual.
Military.com identified the two as Lt. Col. Sean McBride and Command Sgt. Maj. Mario Salomone in a report Monday.
A 2nd ID spokesman, Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton, said the Army withheld their names to preserve the investigation’s integrity.
“The Warrior Division position regarding racism, bigotry, and discrimination is clear,” he wrote in an email Wednesday to Stars and Stripes. “There is no place for discrimination, bigotry or racism. They erode trust and undermine the Army Values that unite us as Soldiers.”
The 602nd belongs to the 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade at Camp Humphreys, the Army’s sprawling base south of Seoul. Crighton declined to say what status either individual has while suspended from battalion duty.
Racism within the military surfaced as a topic this year, paralleling events in the United States, including the May killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white police officer in Minneapolis.
“Accountability and transparency go hand-in-hand with building trust,” Burleson said in the Eighth Army post. “We must demonstrate that we are taking an active approach to resolving those issues and concerns and providing candid feedback to our units about the steps we are taking to make our team strong and ready. We are taking actions on the allegations I received.”
The allegations against the two were made on the Eighth Army Anonymous Assistance line.
Burleson said some allegations are being addressed by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.