Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King, who on Thursday relinquished command of the Army’s Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, says she will stay in the Army and try to repair her reputation.
King, the first female commandant of the school, was suspended Nov. 21 for undisclosed reasons, and then reinstated May 11.
Her passing of command on Thursday was part of the normal rotation planned prior to her suspension, her attorney, state Rep. James Smith, said.
“I don’t feel vindicated,” she told The State after an emotional ceremony on Thursday. “There is still work to do.”
King had requested to remain in the commandant position, but that request was turned down, Smith said.
“She wanted those six months back as commandant,” he said.
King, who is African-American, said she was suspended by her immediate superiors because she hadn’t been in combat, among other reasons. Most male drill sergeants have seen combat as the United States had been at war on two fronts for a decade. Although female soldiers can be deployed to war zones, they are not allowed combat roles.
Smith said her superiors also made a series of unsubstantiated charges against her, saying she was micromanaging and creating a “toxic command.”
“None of which were true,” he said. “The Army found none of the claims warranted.”
King, 50 and a 32-year Army veteran, made national television broadcasts and headlines when she was appointed commandant. She has said sexism and racism stemming from resentment of her celebrity figured into her suspension.
“Being female, not being in combat and not being deployed” all played a part in her falling out of favor with her superiors, some of whom came into their positions after she was appointed, Smith said.
King handed command of the school to Command Sgt. Maj. Michael McCoy. McCoy previously served with an infantry battalion at Fort Benning, Ga. He is white, male and has been deployed twice to Iraq.
The Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) in Fort Eustis, Va., which oversees the drill sergeant school and Fort Jackson issued a statement saying: “The process that governs this issue is ongoing, and it would be inappropriate for the Army to circumvent this process by addressing Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King’s allegations in a public forum. However, the Army is required to review, and as appropriate, investigate allegations concerning its leaders. This investigation involved a very deliberate process.”
Smith, an S.C. National Guard captain who was trained by King and led a combat unit in Afghanistan, said he has asked for an investigation by the Army inspector general’s office into the motives of two of her superiors, as well as a congressional investigation. He also is contemplating a federal lawsuit.
King said she was relegated to a cubicle in the new drill sergeant school at Fort Jackson, the Army’s largest training facility, during her suspension. She said she spent her time mostly working on her defense as the internal investigation wore on over six months.
King was reinstated by Maj. Gen. Bradley May, TRADOC’s deputy commandant. May was commanding general of Fort Jackson at the time King was named commandant in 2009.
The TRADOC statement said that May made his decision not to extend King’s tenure because, “It was in the best interest of the Drill Sergeant School that she relinquish her duties as commandant.”
Prior to the ceremony, in an informal gathering, drill sergeants from the school’s four training platoons presented King with a mounted Non-Commissioned Officer’s sword and a framed poster featuring platoon pictures and service patches. Following the ceremony, dozens of drill sergeants, family and friends lined up to embrace King and take pictures.
After a brief leave, King will return to Fort Jackson on Tuesday and serve under Brig. Gen. Brian T. Roberts, the fort’s commanding general. What her new role will be is unclear.