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Army's highest ranking enlisted soldier accused of assault, harassment


Top brass reports to Congress on Tuesday

February 3, 1997
Web posted at: 10:45 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army is investigating a complaint of sexual assault and harassment against its highest ranking non-commissioned soldier, Army Sgt. Maj. Gene McKinney.

The announcement came Monday on the eve of Congressional hearings on military sexual harassment. Army Secretary Togo West and other top Army officials are to testify Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee on sexual harassment in the Army.

McKinney has asked to be excused from his duties on the Secretary of the Army's Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment, which is investigating the harassment problem in the Army.

McKinney is accused by a retired female sergeant major of improper sexual advances and touching. McKinney denied the charges.


Army officials say McKinney's accuser did not file a complaint with the Army, but instead told The New York Times.

"The Army understands that a retired sergeant major made a complaint against the current Sergeant Major of the Army for sexual assault and harassment," the Army said in a statement.

"The Army will follow normal investigative procedures to pursue all leads in a thorough but timely manner, following the rules designed to protect the victim and the accused."

McKinney, 46, is married and a highly-decorated soldier who has served in every enlisted leadership position in the Army. He served a combat infantry tour in Vietnam.

There is only one Sergeant Major of the Army, the rank given to the senior enlisted soldier. There are many sergeants major.

Top brass reports to Congress on Tuesday

The announcement comes nearly three months since the Army sexual harassment scandal erupted.

Army officials and the civilian chiefs of all the services will answer to Congress for the progress made on investigating and punishing those responsible for sexual harassment in the military.

Last November, the Army announced it was responding to complaints from young female soldiers that they had been sexually assaulted or harassed by their instructors.

The Army is continuing to bring new charges against drill instructors and other senior soldiers accused of sexually harassing or assaulting females under their control. That results from more than 200 ongoing criminal investigations prompted by more than 1,000 complaints to an Army hot line.

At the Army's Ordnance School in Aberdeen, Maryland, where the scandal broke, five soldiers face trials, one received a discharge and 20 have been suspended until investigators clear or charge them.

Now it's not just Aberdeen, but all the Army's training bases that are under scrutiny.


"The investigation, if anything, is probably even more vigorous than we thought it would be," said Sara Lister, Assistant Secretary of the Army.

That's what Army Secretary Togo West will tell members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He's still waiting for the results of two broader investigations to determine how widespread the rape and sexual assault problem is, and make recommendations to correct it.

Military trials get under way next month for soldiers accused of sex crimes, an army inspector general's report is due out in the spring, and a special task force will make its recommendations in June. Meanwhile, the Army contends every complaint is being thoroughly and fairly investigated.


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