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Army fires 2-star general amid improper relationship probe

Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington, U.S. Army Africa Commanding General, attends a function on July 10, 2017, during a visit to Caserma Ederle, Vicenza, Italy.

DAVIDE DALLA MASSARA/U.S. ARMY

By FROM STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Published: October 13, 2017

The two-star general who heads U.S. Army Africa has been fired and recalled to Washington, amid allegations he had an inappropriate relationship with the wife of an enlisted soldier, the Army said Friday.

An Army statement provided to The Associated Press said that Maj. Gen. Joseph Harrington was removed from his job due to a loss in confidence in his ability to command.

Army Col. Patrick Seiber, an Army spokesman, said Friday that Harrington is under investigation for sending inappropriate Facebook messages to the woman, who is married to a soldier on that same base in Vicenza, Italy. Harrington, who is also married, was suspended from his post on Sept. 1, but had stayed in Italy.

Harrington will remain in the Army but will be reassigned to the Pentagon, Seiber said. As is usually done in discipline cases, he will work as a special assistant to the director of the Army Staff until the investigation is finished.

Harrington exchanged flattering, playful and flirtatious messages with the much younger Italian woman for three months before he abruptly ended the friendship. The messages became news after the woman and her husband went public with screen shots after approaching an advocacy group for advice.

The woman said she was angry when the messages stopped and had been convinced by her furious husband and by others that Harrington’s texts should be exposed.

“I felt betrayed. I felt used,” the woman said.

During an interview with Stars and Stripes in September, the woman shared the messages with Harrington that she kept on her phone.

In one of several texts in which Harrington sought assurances that she’d tell no one about their relationship, he said she had “a little playful devil inside.”

“Devil is inside all of us since the day Eve mess up with that apple,” the woman replied.

“Actually, it was Adam’s mess up!” Harrington wrote.

Then he asked, “How often does your devil vixen come out?”

Harrington is one in a string of senior Army officers who have been disciplined for bad behavior, triggering the development earlier this year of new programs aimed at shaping stronger, more ethical leaders.

Earlier this year, the Army began putting together a number of new mental health, counseling and career management programs in order to boost professionalism within the officer corps and get at what may be the root causes of the behavior problems.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Army's chief of staff, told The AP last month that, "we recognized senior executive leaders, with varying amounts of stress, lacked a holistic program that focuses on comprehensive health." He said the military has strived to combat stress disorders, suicide and other problems, but often put the focus on enlisted troops or lower-ranking officers. A new emphasis must be placed on senior leaders, he said.

Stars and Stripes reporter Nancy Montgomery contributed to this story.
 

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