By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The U.S. Army Reserve suspended the commander of an Illinois-based unit Tuesday as part of an ongoing investigation into allegations that unit officers mishandled complaints of sexual misconduct and retaliated against a whistleblower.
Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, commanding general of the Army Reserve Command, announced in a statement that he has suspended the 416th Theater Engineering Command’s commander. The statement didn’t identify the commander by name, but the unit’s website lists Maj. Gen. Miyako Schanely as its leader.
The 416th spokesman, Jason Proseus, didn’t immediately return an after-hours email Tuesday evening.
According to Schanely’s biography, she joined the Army in 1986, moved to the reserves in 1993 and held command positions with units at Fort Drum, Fort Leonard Wood and Fort Dix as well as in Syracuse, New York. She also serves as the executive director of the State University of New York North Country Consortium, a partnership of six SUNY campuses that works to bring college degree programs to Fort Drum.
Luckey said in his statement that such suspensions are routine during ongoing investigations. He added, however, that a “number of potentially adverse findings” have been tied to 416th officers. He did not elaborate or name the officers, saying only that the officers will be entitled to free legal representation as they draft their responses.
“The Army is committed to preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, each of which harms Soldiers and erodes unit readiness and cohesion,” Luckey said.
Army spokeswoman Col. Sunset Belinsky said she will have no further information until the investigation is complete.
The 416th, out of the Chicago suburb of Darien, provides technical and engineering support to U.S. military forces. It serves as the headquarters for nearly 11,000 soldiers in 26 states west of the Mississippi River.
Amy Braley Franck, a civilian advocate for sexual-assault victims with the 416th, has alleged that commanders have started internal investigations into at least two sexual assault cases, one in 2018 and another last year. Federal law and Department of Defense policy require that commanders refer sexual assault complaints to criminal investigators in their respective branches to avoid biased investigations.
Commanders who don’t follow the proper channels can be faced with reprimands, removal from command or a court martial.
The Wisconsin National Guard’s top commander, Adj. Gen. Donald Dunbar, resigned in December after a federal review found he had been conducting internal sexual-assault investigations rather than forwarding complaints to the National Guard Bureau. He’s still under Air Force investigation.
Braley Franck also has alleged that the 416th went months without holding a management meeting on sexual assault, even though the DOD requires such meetings monthly, and that unit commanders had also placed a victim on a firing range with someone she had accused of sexual harassment, causing her to fear for her life.
Braley Franck’s commanders suspended her in November in what she believes was retaliation for alerting Army criminal investigators to the internal probes.
The Army Reserve started an investigation into the 416th in January in response to a request from Illinois Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth. The senators cited an Associated Press story about Braley Franck’s allegations in their request.
Aides for Durbin and Duckworth didn’t immediately respond to an after-hours email seeking comment Tuesday evening.
Braley Franck said Schanely and other 416th commanders have ignored her allegations and sexual misconduct victims don’t trust them.
“Any commander that ignores a subject matter expert for the betterment of their formation, their soldiers will not trust them,” she said. “When soldiers don’t trust their leaders to take care of them, they’re not going to trust them on the battlefield.”