Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will step down as commander of V Corps next week.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez will step down as commander of V Corps next week. (Robin Hoecker / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who has been V Corps commander for more than three years — longer than any previous general — will relinquish command next week, V Corps announced Wednesday.

Sanchez will turn over command to Gen. David McKiernan, commander of U.S. Army Europe, at a ceremony at 10 a.m. next Wednesday at Campbell Barracks’ parade field.

There was no word on whether Sanchez, the highest-ranking Hispanic officer in the U.S. military — who was once considered a contender for a fourth star and command of the U.S. Southern Command — was retiring after more than 33 years in the Army.

“I can’t tell you,” Patton said. “He’s relinquishing command, and he’s going back to the States.”

Sanchez, 55, has served as the V Corps commander since June 2003, when he assumed command in Baghdad.

He also took on a second role as commander of Combined Joint Task Force-7, putting him in command of a multinational force of some 135,000 active and reserve component troops.

Many observers, including a variety of retired U.S. generals, have said that number of troops was insufficient to stabilize Iraq, allowed for a power vacuum and enabled the insurgency and continuing chaotic and violent conditions.

It was on Sanchez’s watch that the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal erupted. Sanchez was cleared in various military investigations of any wrongdoing, but one report found him and other top commanders “responsible but not culpable.”

Sanchez has never addressed criticisms that have dogged him since 2004. He has repeatedly declined to comment in newspaper stories about him and did not respond to an e-mail request for an interview on Wednesday.

Lt. Gen. Pete Chiarelli is currently leading V Corps’ headquarters now deployed in Iraq, and is also commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Sanchez is a native of Rio Grande City, Texas. He graduated from Texas A&I University, Kingsville, Texas, as a distinguished military graduate and was commissioned a second lieutenant in armor in the Regular Army in 1973.

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

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