The 1st Cavalry Division is the largest unit at Fort Cavazos, Texas, with more than 18,000 soldiers. At least four commanding officers within the division have been fired within the past two years.

The 1st Cavalry Division is the largest unit at Fort Cavazos, Texas, with more than 18,000 soldiers. At least four commanding officers within the division have been fired within the past two years. (Rose L. Thayer/Stars and Stripes )

AUSTIN, Texas — A battalion commander for the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Cavazos was fired after a command investigation called into question his ability to lead troops, according to officials at the Texas Army post.

Lt. Col. Damasio Davila was relieved as commander of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment on April 26 by Col. Chris Dempsey, the commander of 1st Brigade Combat Team, “due to a loss of trust in his ability to command,” base officials said. He had led the unit since June 2021.

He is at least the third commanding officer within the brigade and at least the fourth within the division to be fired within the past two years.

Lt. Col. Jennifer Bocanegra, spokeswoman for the 1st Cavalry Division, declined to comment on the investigation or its findings.

“As a matter of policy, the Army does not comment on investigations,” she said in a statement.

Dempsey, the brigade commander who removed Davila, took over the unit after the previous commander, Col. Jon Meredith, came under a criminal investigation for sexual misconduct. Meredith will be arraigned Monday in a Fort Cavazos courtroom on charges of abusive sexual contact and conduct unbecoming of an officer.

Meredith became commander of the unit in May 2021 after his predecessor, Col. Michael Schoenfeldt, was removed from command for bullying staff. The unit was deployed to Poland at the time.

Six months prior to Schoenfeldt’s firing, the Army published a report from the Fort Hood Independent Review Commission that found the quality-of-life of soldiers and families assigned to the base had greatly deteriorated because of lack of trust in leadership, as well as an environment that permitted sexual assault and harassment. The commission was formed to investigate the experiences of soldiers at Fort Hood following the killing of a soldier on post.

The report’s release triggered the suspension of then 1st Cavalry Division commander Maj. Gen. Jeffery Broadwater while an internal review took place. That report was not publicly released, and officials said Broadwater did not face disciplinary action. However, he did not return to command.

Maj. Gen. John Richardson took command of the division in July 2021 and remains in the job.

Bocanegra did not answer questions about possible issues within the unit that could lead to repeated misconduct from leaders.

Lt. Gen. Sean Bernabe, commander of III Corps and Fort Cavazos, was asked the same question in February during a meeting with reporters and he cautioned against connecting the cases.

“I know that's a tendency. People want to do that. Just like filling the space with rumors, or what have you, trying to connect dots where there may not be a connection is also not helpful and potentially dangerous,” he said.

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Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

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