Fired Marine Commanding Officer Was Arrested on Drunk Driving Charge

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  • John Atkinson (Prince William County Police)
    John Atkinson (Prince William County Police)
  • Col. John B. Atkinson, incoming commanding officer, after a change of command ceremony at Lejeune Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on June 23, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy A. Turner)
    Col. John B. Atkinson, incoming commanding officer, after a change of command ceremony at Lejeune Hall, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., on June 23, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Timothy A. Turner)

A Marine colonel who was fired from his job as commanding officer of a Virginia-based unit was arrested earlier this month for allegedly driving while intoxicated.

Col. John Atkinson was arrested April 12 in Prince William County, Virginia, according to police records. Atkinson, 49, was released after agreeing to appear in court May 24.

It's Atkinson's first alleged offense. He could not immediately be reached for comment.

Maj. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, head of Marine Corps Installations Command, fired Atkinson from his job as commanding officer of Headquarters and Service Battalion in Quantico, Virginia, last week.

Marine officials declined to say whether he's facing additional punishment.

"It would be inappropriate to comment on the circumstances that led to the decision to relieve Col. Atkinson due to the ongoing investigation," Maj. Simba Chigwida, a Marine Corps Installations Command spokesman, told Military.com.

Atkinson, who lives just outside Prince William County, allegedly refused a blood or breathalyzer test at the time of his arrest, according to court records. Doing so can result in the court suspending a driver's license for a year, Virginia law states.

In January, he was also fined for driving without a license, according to court records.

If found guilty, Atkinson faces a minimum $250 fine and could have his license revoked for a year.

Marine Corps commanders must be held to high standards, Chigwida said, and they receive training to prevent these situations.

"These expectations are reinforced during mandatory commanders' courses for new commanders and regular, recurring meetings with installation commanders," he said. "The purpose of the directed Commandants Combined Commandership Course is to educate commanders, sergeants major, and their spouses on the fundamental authorities, responsibilities, programs, and practices that contribute to a successful command tour."

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller also institutionalized the Protect What You've Earned campaign, which is designed to help eliminate alcohol misuse, sexual assault, suicide and domestic violence. Leaders are encouraged to inspire good behavior among their Marines and initiate conversations with their troops about good decision-making.

"The topic of responsible use of alcohol and protecting what you've earned is something we emphasize constantly to all of our Marines," Chigwida said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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