Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

82nd Airborne battalion commander fired

The commander of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was relieved in Afghanistan, where the unit has been deployed since August. Both he and his command sergeant major were shipped home, reports the observant John Ramsey of the Fayetteville Observer. Two things interest me about this. First, relieving a battalion commander in combat used ...

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

The commander of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was relieved in Afghanistan, where the unit has been deployed since August. Both he and his command sergeant major were shipped home, reports the observant John Ramsey of the Fayetteville Observer.

Two things interest me about this. First, relieving a battalion commander in combat used to be pretty common, but has become increasingly rare in recent wars. Even General James Gavin, who thought relief was used too often during World War II, once gave an order to a battalion commander, who questioned it, so Gavin turned to the XO and told him he now had command of the unit. In my research on World War II, I have been struck at how swift relief was, but also how it wasn't necessarily terminal. Off the top of my head I can think of two division commanders who were relieved in combat (Allen and Ward) only to get command of other divisions later in the war. What's more, Brig. Gen. "Hanging" Sam Williams was not only relieved as an assistant division commander but also reduced to colonel-only to stay in the Army and eventually retire as a three star.

Second, the relieved battalion commander in question, Lt. Col. Frank Jenio, declined to comment to Mr. Ramsey, except to say that he is looking for a lawyer. Yow. I can't imagine litigating command decisions like this one.

The commander of the 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was relieved in Afghanistan, where the unit has been deployed since August. Both he and his command sergeant major were shipped home, reports the observant John Ramsey of the Fayetteville Observer.

Two things interest me about this. First, relieving a battalion commander in combat used to be pretty common, but has become increasingly rare in recent wars. Even General James Gavin, who thought relief was used too often during World War II, once gave an order to a battalion commander, who questioned it, so Gavin turned to the XO and told him he now had command of the unit. In my research on World War II, I have been struck at how swift relief was, but also how it wasn’t necessarily terminal. Off the top of my head I can think of two division commanders who were relieved in combat (Allen and Ward) only to get command of other divisions later in the war. What’s more, Brig. Gen. "Hanging" Sam Williams was not only relieved as an assistant division commander but also reduced to colonel-only to stay in the Army and eventually retire as a three star.

Second, the relieved battalion commander in question, Lt. Col. Frank Jenio, declined to comment to Mr. Ramsey, except to say that he is looking for a lawyer. Yow. I can’t imagine litigating command decisions like this one.

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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