The U.S. Army’s 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) has been embroiled in a series of leadership controversies, with multiple senior leaders facing disciplinary action and investigations into their behavior. The issues have highlighted broader concerns about the Army’s deployment policies and the impact on soldiers’ well-being.
The Army launched an investigation into 5th SFAB in 2021, following reports of toxic leadership and a hostile work environment. The investigation found that Col. John Chung, the brigade commander, regularly berated and belittled his subordinates, calling them derogatory names and using demeaning language.
Col. Chung, commander of the 5th SFAB was recommended to be relieved.
Toxic command climate, sexual assault, alcohol abuse, fist fights, poor retention, and white supremacy. Here is an inside look at one of the Army's most chaotic units. https://t.co/IXh0LlJZNs
— Steve, but without the Blue check (@StevenBeynon) May 10, 2023
Chung denied the allegations, but multiple officers reported seeking behavioral health services as a direct result of his treatment. The investigation also uncovered issues with the brigade’s violations of temporary duty policy, with soldiers being redeployed without adequate rest or time with their families.
The investigation recommended that Col. Lucas Braxton, the deputy commander of 5th SFAB, face administrative action for orchestrating at least 23 violations of the policy. Braxton was found to have asked subordinate commanders about extending deployments in violation of Army rules, effectively denying soldiers the opportunity to rest between missions.
Soldiers who spoke to Military.com reported a bleak picture of morale and behavior within the brigade. One Soldier reported a Staff Sergeant routinely referring to his Soldiers using sexist and demeaning language, resulting in fights and yelling matches. Another Soldier reported a team member carrying a Confederate battle flag to Malaysia and using racist language.
The brigade’s problems are not unique, according to internal slides for a 5th SFAB briefing reviewed by Military.com. The slides showed that more than 90% of complaints at the base involved equal opportunity issues, such as bullying and sexist behavior involving senior leaders. Half of these complaints were confirmed, and the leaders were removed from their positions.
The base also saw 26 informal sexual assault or harassment complaints and 44 formal complaints during fiscal 2022. Col. Meghann Sullivan, commander of the 5th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 5th SFAB, was suspended this week following claims of sexual assault and harassment against at least two subordinate individuals.
Part of the problem, according to Command Sargent. Maj. Shelby Reed of 6th Battalion, 5th SFAB, is that the brigade had to quickly stand up a new organization and put people in slots without adequate vetting.
The result was that the brigade hired many individuals who were not mature enough to handle the challenges of the job and who exhibited disciplinary issues.
The issues facing 5th SFAB highlight broader concerns about the Army’s deployment policies and their impact on soldiers’ well-being. As the Army continues to deploy troops across the globe, it must ensure that its leaders are adequately trained and equipped to handle the challenges of leading in a high-stress environment. Failure to do so not only harms soldiers but also undermines the Army’s mission and effectiveness.