Female Commander Investigated over Alleged Sexual Assaults of Male Subordinates, Pattern of Harassment

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Lt. Col. Meghann Sullivan takes the guidon.
Lt. Col. Meghann Sullivan takes the 5th Battalion, 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade guidon at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, June 28, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Joseph Knoch)

A top officer in the Army's 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade has been investigated following allegations of multiple sexual assaults and a pattern of sexual harassment, according to two sources with knowledge of the investigation. It is unclear whether the investigation is ongoing, but it comes while another is underway into allegations of toxic leadership by the brigade's commander.

Col. Meghann Sullivan, commander of the 5th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 5th SFAB, faces allegations of assaulting at least two subordinate men and harassing several others, with some of those incidents allegedly tied to alcohol abuse, according to one of the two sources. At least one of those alleged assaults involved forceful kissing and another grabbing a man below the belt without his consent.

Sullivan is seemingly still in command, though commanders are sometimes suspended amid investigations. She did not return a request for comment. It is unclear whether Sullivan has hired an attorney.

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"We have no information on that matter that we can share at this time," Sgt. 1st Class Adrian Patoka, a spokesperson for the Security Force Assistance Command, told Military.com in a statement. "We take any and all allegations seriously and handle them appropriately as circumstances dictate."

Male victims account for 10% of sexual assault cases in the military, according to 2021 data from the Department of Defense. That data estimates roughly 14,000 male soldiers experience some type of unwanted sexual contact per year, though male cases of sexual assault and harassment are likely underreported due to societal stigma.

Sullivan is the first woman to take command of an SFAB battalion. Those new units, created between 2017 and 2020, sport a unique brown beret and "Advisor" tab. Their mission is to work with established allied forces to review their doctrine, assist in any training, and develop ways the U.S. can work with partner countries. Each SFAB focuses on a specific region, with the 5th SFAB overseeing the Pacific and partnering with countries that will be key for any conflict with China, including Japan, Australia, Mongolia and Thailand.

The news comes as the 5th SFAB's commander, and Sullivan's boss, Col. Jonathan Chung, was suspended and faces allegations of counterproductive leadership and abusive treatment of his subordinates.

Military.com interviewed two dozen of Chung's subordinate officers and noncommissioned officers who worked with him in multiple different units, including the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division and 75th Ranger Regiment. Virtually all of them painted a picture of Chung being a micromanager who demanded loyalty and who routinely dressed down subordinates in front of others and retaliated against his soldiers for minor infractions.

Chung's investigation is ongoing but is expected to wrap up in the coming weeks, according to internal emails reviewed by Military.com.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: 'He Was the Worst Leader I've Ever Had': Suspended Brigade Commander Accused of Toxic Leadership

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