Marine Corps general under investigation for using racial slur is relieved of command

Stars and Stripes:

He used the N word to illustrate that it’s inappropriate for rap music to use it. Now he’s fired.

Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary has been relieved of command of U.S. Marines in Europe and Africa while the service investigates allegations he used a racial slur that denigrates Black people, the Corps said Tuesday.

Marine Commandant Gen. David H. Berger relieved Neary on Monday “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in command,” the Corps said in a statement.

The Marine Corps previously said that the investigation was connected to the use of a racial slur but declined to go into detail. Stars and Stripes reported earlier this month that the two-star general’s actions were being probed for using the word during a training event at his Stuttgart-area headquarters.

The incident occurred in August on the parade field outside Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa headquarters in Boeblingen, Germany.

A lance corporal who was present told Stars and Stripes that Neary used the N-word while Marines were doing physical training outdoors with loud music playing.

Some of the rap music incorporated the word, which prompted Neary to ask the junior Marines how they would feel if he said it, the lance corporal said.

The Marine, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said Black, white and Latino Marines were jolted when the general said the word. Even if Neary was attempting to be instructive about the taboo nature of the word, it came as a shock to hear it from a white general officer, the lance corporal said.

“He lost respect right there,” the Marine said.

As the weeks passed and Neary remained in command, several Marines brought the matter to the attention of Stars and Stripes.

The incident came at a time of racial upheaval in the U.S. and inside the military as troops grappled with how to respond to police-brutality cases that have sparked protests in U.S. cities in recent months.

In August, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the killing of George Floyd by Minnesota police in May served as a “wake-up call” for the military.

“I don’t think what everybody [in the Defense Department’s leadership] appreciated, at least me, personally, is the depth of sentiment out there among our service members of color, particularly Black Americans, about how much [impact] the killing of George Floyd … had on them, and what they are experiencing in the ranks, as well … We must do better,” Esper said during a security forum.

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