Investigate the toxic leadership environment at Fort Eustis/Story
Investigate the toxic leadership environment at Fort Eustis/Story
Why this petition matters
Soldiers in 7th Transportation Brigade are often treated worse than second class citizens.
The toxic environment in 7th Transportation Brigade has gone unchecked for years and has gotten to the point that it must no longer be ignored. The current climate has become extremely hostile for the majority of Soldiers and junior leaders.
In 2021, a young Soldier, (we'll call "SPC O") reluctantly reported being stalked and sexually harassed by a senior officer, we'll call "Mr. N," in the Battalion. This caused an AR 15-6 Investigation to take place, which is one of the command's primary means of justifying and inflicting abuse. An AR 15-6 is an internal investigation (led by the Command) that allows the command to act as judge, jury, and executioner, while preventing any American due process or rights for the accused. Despite several text messages, the testimony of other witnesses, and Mr. N admitting to his misconduct, the Fort Eustis Judge Advocate (who works at the behest of the command) found the harassed Soldier guilty of being in an "inappropriate relationship,” despite its nonconsensual nature.
During the investigation process, a Military Protective Order (military restraining order) was put in place against the accused officer, yet SPC O's numerous requests for a copy (that she was legally required to receive) were ignored and she never received one. Additionally, the terms of the MPO were not being enforced by the unit leadership, forcing the Soldier to endure the company of her harasser. When she brought this breach of regulation and military law to her command, she was belittled and ignored. She was even told by the Brigade Sergeant Major that "accidental contact breaching the protected distance did not constitute a violation of the restraining order" and that it "wasn't realistic to expect leadership to keep track of where both of them were.” When corrected by another non-commissioned officer that it would in fact constitute a violation under military law, the Sergeant Major replied that he "didn't care and didn't want to hear anymore drama" about SPC O. The Soldier who spent months being quietly harassed before mustering the courage to speak up, was eventually stripped of her rank, pay, and given 45 days of extra duty... all for the crime of finally reporting sexual harassment.
To top it all off, she was administratively discharged from the Army under less than honorable conditions.
Her harasser, Mr. N, is peacefully planning his retirement.
Soon after, "Off A," a Soldier in the same Battalion, found himself accused of sexual harassment by someone with a Battalion-wide reputation for starting trouble and abusing the Army’s programs to make false complaints. After the first investigation was ripped apart for being sloppy, biased, and weak, the command and legal office doubled down to ensure Off A was found guilty. Despite the accuser and her friend contradicting each other as well as themselves at every turn, and the third eye-witness who denied any misconduct from Off A, (and a plethora of other issues) the Brigade Commander attempted to get the accused Soldier a GOMOR (career killing reprimand) and elimination proceedings initiated against him (though fortunately that didn't happen).
So... why would the Brigade Command team and Eustis Legal Office put forth so much effort to try and punish someone who was clearly being falsely accused?...
...because Off A was the person SPC O reported being sexually harassed to.
Off A was quick to voice his disapproval of SPC O's investigation results and that is most likely what put him in the crosshairs of the Brigade Commander and Fort Eustis Judge Advocate. When the opportunity arose for them to stack a case against him, they took full advantage of it.
The immorality of 7th Transportation Brigade doesn't end there though.
After the dining facility on Fort Story closed down a few years ago, Soldiers living in the barracks were supposed to be issued Type II BAS (a special pay for food expenses) to compensate them for the lack of an on-post dining facility. Every Soldier living in the barracks was denied this pay (that they were legally entitled to) despite several suppressed complaints, inquiries, and attempts to remedy the issue. After two years of these unfortunate Soldiers exhausting all avenues for reproach, and spending an average of $420 per month, one brave Soldier, "SPC T," emailed the Sergeant-Major of the Army for assistance. Sergeant-Major Grinston fixed the problem quickly and improved the quality of life for hundreds of Soldiers immediately, but SPC T's leadership was not pleased. He was quickly disciplined for skipping the chain of command, despite their inability to solve a problem that had negatively affected barracks Soldiers for two years. He is now in the sights of an evil command who are salivating at the opportunity to abuse the Army’s unjust disciplinary systems against him.
7th Transportation Brigade allowed Soldiers to go without BAS II pay for TWO YEARS without doing anything about it. Then they had the nerve to punish the Soldier who finally got it fixed.
The list of injustices go on and on.
It's standard for Soldiers in 7th Transportation Brigade to be retaliated against for standing up for the truth. Stories of survivors punished with Article 15's and involuntary discharges after reporting sexual harassment/assault, toxic leadership, and the most basic of problems run rampant throughout the ranks. On the flip side, Soldiers falsely accused of misconduct are routinely punished with no recourse. The climate in 7th Transportation Brigade is hostile and unacceptable. Soldiers are routinely robbed of freedom, respect, and basic human dignity. The morale on these installations is terrible and the wrong people are always held accountable while the true perpetrators existing in the higher ranks remain unscathed. Article 15's, GOMORs, AR 15-6 investigations, SHARP, EO, counselings, are conducted solely as a means for the command to "check the box" and punish whoever they want. These punitive systems offer little to no accountability and are nothing more than a smoke and mirrors show to pretend that due process exists for the accused. The Brigade's leadership is abusing their power to an alarming degree and it's time for the Army to step in and put an end to it.
The current tools for punishment disguised as "administrative actions" are not only highly abusable, but highly abused. These systems need to change.
By signing this petition, we ask that the climate of 7th Transportation Brigade be assessed by an external entity and that the many injustices committed by this command (there are far too many to include here) are investigated, reversed, and corrected. We request that the administrative avenues for punitive action (such as the AR 15-6 investigation process) be overhauled Army-wide so that they can no longer be used as a means of abuse by those in power. Likewise, the processes for Article 15's, administrative discharges, GOMORs, complaints, and appeals of all means should be re-examined to prevent Soldiers for being wrongly punished without a strict adherence to American legal protections and burden of proof that exist everywhere outside the military. The current processes provide commanders with unlimited leniency and the subject with little to no chance of fighting for truth and justice. All of the Soldiers being threatened with punishment and/or administratively discharge deserve a fair chance to fight their accusations as well as pursue an appeal for vindication. No commander in the military should have access to systems so abusable and contrary to American ideals. The quality of life for Soldiers on Fort Eustis and Fort Story is a prime example of why these Army procedures require dire improvement, as our brave service members deserve far better.
The senior leadership at Fort Eustis has disgraced the United States Army and the American Military as a whole. They have rebelled against the very values the Army was founded to defend. Let them be made an example of in order to deter future military leaders looking to exercise toxicity, complacency, and immorality. Hold them accountable.
This is bigger than just 7th Transportation Brigade, and is not exclusive to only Fort Eustis/Story. This is about addressing the toxic, immoral culture throughout the entire military and giving our Service Members the respect and quality of life they deserve. Men and women with the courage to step up and serve the United States with everything up to their life deserve better treatment, and should be given the same fair chances of success and justice as a civilian.
For more details on the Army’s abuse of “administrative actions,” please visit this link: https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/05/why-is-the-u-s-army-abandoning-due-process/