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U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Barry C. Wheeler.
U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Barry C. Wheeler. (T.D. Flack / S&S)

SEOUL — Noncommissioned officers commit the majority of sexual assaults in the military, and that is “not OK,” said the senior enlisted servicemember in South Korea.

Worse, the NCOs are assaulting the people they’re supposed to lead, U.S. Forces Korea Command Sgt. Maj. Barry Wheeler said during an hourlong radio program Friday.

“My message to NCOs: I don’t care what service you’re in, knock it off,” he said. “You better be protecting that person’s integrity and taking care of them and making sure they have a safe place to live and not taking advantage of them.”

Wheeler discussed hot topics and answered questions from military members across the peninsula during “From the Top,” a monthly American Forces Network radio program.

Wheeler said sexual assaults are “usually associated … I’m sad to say, with an overconsumption of alcohol, where one of the two, if not both, have made a poor decision to continue to drink.”

He said Gen. Charles Campbell, 8th Army commander, calls troops who’ve had too much to drink “fallen comrades.”

“And warrior ethos and soldier’s creed says ‘I will not leave a fallen comrade,’” Wheeler said. When “instead you take advantage of a fallen comrade, you got it backwards.”

Wheeler also addressed a number of other issues, including

Visions and goals for his tour:

“I don’t count the days, I make the days count,” he said. “I know that’s kind of corny and when I was here in 1975 I counted every day. That’s because I love my wife and couldn’t wait to get home. But the best training I ever received was right here.”

Wheeler described the military environment in South Korea as a “leadership laboratory.”

“We take young soldiers, turn them into noncommissioned officers, teach them their craft,” he said.

He urged troops to continue their education, experience a foreign culture and to grow personally and professionally every day.

His first 60 days on the job:

Wheeler said he’s visited Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine servicemembers during his first two months on the job.

“I guess the greatest thing that strikes me … is how much pride I see being displayed in the servicemembers,” he said. “They’re proud to show you their duties, they’re proud of their service, the sense of mission is real.”

He said troops don’t ask for much, but they want quality leadership and to be treated with dignity and respect.

“All you have to do is take the time to listen,” he said. “You may not have all the answers. … But you ought to at least care enough to go find the answer.”

The Army combat uniform:

“There’s some issues with it, as there is with every new uniform, but it’s great when you’re wearing … body armor, which is what it was designed for. The fabric is much lighter, and the great news is that you don’t have to polish the boots that go with it and you don’t have to pay to have it starched,” he said. “And if I had all the money I had spent over the years for pressing uniforms and having them starched I could retire a wealthy man.”

He said once the Army works out the issue of the back pockets not being deep enough and the shirt “maybe being a little too short,” the troops will enjoy the uniform.


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