Female leader of Army drill sergeant school reinstated after controversial suspension
Columbia, S.C. - The first female boss at the Army's prestigious drill sergeant school is being reinstated after she was suspended in November for reasons the Army has never explained, her attorney and the Army said Friday.
Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, who is black, filed a military legal complaint over the suspension, arguing it was a result of racism and sexism from soldiers who resented her promotion and the national attention it attracted.
"To the Army leadership, I have devoted my life to train American soldiers. My removal was without justification," King said Friday.
Her attorney, James Smith, said she would return to her job as commandant of the drill sergeant school at Fort Jackson, the nation's largest military training installation.
"She's going to get reinstated," he said. "She's been vindicated."
The decision to reinstate her was made by Maj. Gen. Bradley May, the deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.
"Maj. Gen. May determined after a thorough review of the case that a release for cause was unwarranted and her suspension be lifted immediately," said Col. Christian Kubik, a TRADOC spokesman.
King's voice cracked briefly as she spoke to reporters Friday. She thanked God and the friends, family and fellow soldiers who believed in her and told the Army the allegations against her were untrue.
"There were dark days, and I wanted to quit," King said. "But the mission was too great. Had I quit, I believe I would have literally died."
The move comes after King's attorney filed a legal complaint Monday against two of her superiors. He also sought a congressional investigation into the matter, appealing directly to South Carolina's two senior members of Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. James Clyburn.
The complaint cited statements from King's deputy at the school and an Army colonel who worked with King. The attorney said younger soldiers who had spoken out against King had recanted their statements and that his own investigation had uncovered more than three dozen people who vouched for her high standards and good name.
In her rebuttal to the Army, King wrote her superiors, "My instincts tell me that if I were a male, that none of this would have happened."
King's attorney is a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives and a captain in the South Carolina Army National Guard. He trained under King when she was a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson.
In his complaint Smith provided an affidavit from Col. John Bessler, who was King's commanding officer when she was a drill sergeant and who visited her at the drill school after she was named commandant.
Bessler said "a good-ole boy network of disgruntlement'' had led to what he called "a character assassination campaign" against King because "her standards are higher than theirs are."
The complaint was filed against Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, who ordered King suspended, and his top enlisted aide, Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena. The two men did not respond to email requests for comment on the story.
Calpena has done this to fellow soldiers before, Smith said. He was especially jealous of King because she was a woman and had not been in combat, the lawyer said.
"He would continue to use these facts as a way to undermine and cultivate others in opposition. He'd say, 'I shouldn't have to work for you. You're a woman, you're not combat arms,' and the fact is, that is not the Army," Smith said.
At the time of the decision, Longo was the head of the Army's basic and advanced military training at the Training and Doctrine Command, which has responsibility for the drill sergeant school. He is now serving in Afghanistan.
Kubik said he could not speak for Longo, but that Calpena had no comment on the developments in the case.
King said she was ready to get back to work as soon as she can.
"We have lost over five months of training momentum and there is much work to do. This we'll defend, and victory starts here," King said.
After she took charge of the training program, reporters and TV crews descended on King, making much of her background as the daughter of a North Carolina sharecropper who dispensed stern discipline to his 12 children. She was featured on national TV, on newspaper front pages and in women's magazines, sometimes with photos of her car sporting "noslack" vanity plates.
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