The Army general in charge of preventing sexual assault in the military announced his retirement Monday as an investigation continues into whether he blocked troops from reporting poor conditions at an Afghan hospital funded by the U.S.
Army Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, director since 2011 of the Defense Department's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, announced plans to retire in the spring and will be replaced in January by Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, the Pentagon said in a statement Monday.
"He has a history of tackling tough assignments and I want to thank him for the transparency, energy, persistence and strong leadership he has brought to the department's sexual assault prevention and response program over these past 18 months," said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
Patton was stepping down a month after the disclosure of allegations that he tried to block troops from telling the Pentagon Inspector General's office about abuses at a U.S.-funded hospital for wounded Afghan soldiers.
A subsequent IG's report last year found that Patton, who was then the deputy commander of an Afghan training mission, had "restricted subordinates from communicating with IG investigators."
The IG's report alleged that Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, the former commander of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, and his deputy, Patton, had sent e-mails to subordinates restricting them from working with IG investigators. In November, Caldwell announced his retirement to become president of Georgia Military College in Milledgeville, Ga.
Joe Newman, a spokesman for the Project on Government Oversight watchdog group, said Patton's retirement was good for the sexual response office "whether it was done by his own volition or he was pressured out."
The charges against Patton in the hospital case "really undermined his authority as an advocate for sexual assault victims," Newman said.
Howver, Hagel said in his statement that Patton, in his 18 months as SAPRO director, "revitalized and oversaw all aspects of the DoD strategic prevention and response plan, enhancing prevention, assessment, investigative, legal support, and victim care programs."
"It is has been my great honor and privilege to have served our nation for nearly 35 years in peace and in combat," Patton said in a statement.
"In my position as SAPRO director, I am heartened by signs of progress in combatting sexual assault, and have been impressed by the unwavering support and selfless service of the thousands of military members and government civilians," said Patton.
Patton's successor, Maj. Gen. Snow, is West Point graduate with 30 years of service including multiple combat tours in Iraq. Snow currently is the Army's director of Strategy, Plans and Policy, and in that office has been a major voice in DoD's strategy for rebalancing U.S. forces to the Pacific.
"The DoD has made great progress in implementing important policies during Secretary Hagel's tenure designed to improve victim confidence and reform the military's approach to sexual assault prevention and response," Snow said in a statement. "I will strive to sustain these efforts and keep our program moving forward."