By SUSANNE M. SCHAFER
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Army is replacing the first female commander of its prestigious drill sergeant school, it announced Wednesday, just days after it lifted her unexplained six-month suspension.
Even so, Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King says she will remain in the service and work to restore her reputation.
The Army unit in charge of training said May 4 that King was reinstated after a six-month investigation, whose grounds were never revealed. Fort Jackson, the base near Columbia where the drill sergeant school is located, announced Wednesday there will be a change of command ceremony on Thursday.
King last month filed a complaint that she was targeted because of sexism and racism. King, who is black, will be replaced by a man. The Army named her successor as Command Sgt. Maj. Michael McCoy, who last served with an infantry battalion at Fort Benning, Ga.
King said her Army superiors have turned aside her request to delay the change of command ceremony and denied her request to remain in the post for the six months she was suspended, she said.
"Justice is going to happen," King told The Associated Press this week. "It's going to hurt, but it's going to happen."
The Army never explained what it was investigating when it suspended her Nov. 29, nor did it offer a full explanation when she was reinstated, except to say the investigation involved her conduct.
"We are fighting for her reputation, at this point," said King's attorney, James Smith.
The decision to reinstate King came several days after she filed a legal complaint. The decision was made by Maj. Gen. Bradley May, the deputy commandant of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. May also told her this week she could not remain in her post, Smith said.
Smith said he fears that the Army is going to force King to retire in August, when she becomes eligible after more than 30 years in the ranks.
King was featured in national television reports and newspaper headlines in 2009 when she was tapped to head the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, the Army's largest training installation.
About 60,000 soldiers are trained annually at the post. That includes half the Army's male soldiers and more than 60 percent of its female soldiers, increasing the need for female drill sergeant trainers.
Just this week, the Army opened thousands of jobs to female soldiers by loosening restrictions meant to keep them away from the battlefield. Experience on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan showed women were fighting and dying alongside male soldiers anyway.
King said she believes the complaints against her came from those who found her too rigid, when she was following instructions to hold drill sergeants to high standards. And criticism that she had never been deployed in combat is unfounded, she said, because she went where the Army sent her. Once, while posted at Fort Bragg with an airborne unit, she was held back from a combat deployment because she was a woman. Instead, she was sent to jobs in Europe and Washington, D.C.
"I'm not afraid of combat, heck no. I just went where the Army told me," she said.
King and Smith said they intend to press ahead with their formal legal complaint, asking that two of her superiors be investigated for abuse of their authority, even though she is being required to step down from her post.
A spokesman for the Training and Doctrine Command, which is in charge of the drill sergeant school, said the Army is still looking into King's allegations, but would not respond to them in detail in a public forum.
"While the Army takes seriously any and all allegations of racism and sexism, Command Sgt. Maj. King's concerns are being carefully reviewed, and appropriate action will be taken if and as warranted," said Harvey Perritt, spokesman at the Fort Eustis, Va., TRADOC headquarters.
Asked about the change of command, Perritt pointed out that the Army "has determined that it is in the best interests of the Drill Sergeant School that she relinquish her duties as commandant this Thursday, May 17. This date reflects a normal tour length and is based on the arrival of the incoming commandant."
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