5th SFAB Commander Fired as Other Officers Face Misconduct Investigations

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U.S. Army Col. Jonathan Chung.
U.S. Army Col. Jonathan Chung greets guests with his family after a change of command ceremony on North Fort Lewis, June 4, 2021. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dean Johnson)

Army Col. Jonathan Chung, commander of the 5th Security Force Assistance Brigade, or SFAB, was relieved this week, a service spokesman confirmed to Military.com.

Chung's termination comes after a Military.com investigation was first to detail systemic issues with the brigade, including numerous leaders facing investigations into their conduct and disciplinary and performance concerns across the brigade's midlevel brass and noncommissioned officers.

Chung was relieved after a sprawling investigation into his conduct. Military.com interviewed two dozen soldiers who served with Chung over the last decade. The publication also reviewed the Army's unredacted investigation on Chung, along with more than 30 sworn statements; dozens of audio recordings, emails, text messages and videos; an unredacted 2021 command climate survey; and other internal data from the brigade.

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Most soldiers interviewed say Chung frequently belittled staff, was a micromanager, and routinely scolded troops for minor errors.

Some soldiers interviewed by Military.com conceded that Chung was very knowledgeable but was direct in speaking to people, often to a fault, and that he inherited poor-performing soldiers. When the SFABs were initially stood up, there was little scrutiny among applicants during the selection process into what the Army hoped would be prestigious units.

The dysfunction surrounding Chung comes as the SFABs seek relevance in the Army but remain a concept still in its infancy after being established in 2017. They are supposed to be the tip of the spear of the service's training efforts with allied armies, each having its own region of responsibility.

The mission has been blurry, resembling Special Forces -- although Green Berets focus on ragtag armies while SFABs broadly work with more conventional forces. The Pentagon's effort to train Ukrainians for their war against Russia has SFABs in a minor role, while multiple formations at the helm are made up of typical rank-and-file soldiers.

The 5th SFAB oversees partnerships in the Pacific and solidifies doctrine with Japan, Australia, Mongolia and other key allies amid an increasingly tense competition with China for influence in the region.

Even with that important role, the 5th SFAB may face deeper problems among its leadership.

Following Chung's dismissal, Col. Tony Braxton is serving as acting commander. However, he was recommended for disciplinary action after an internal Army investigation found that he violated temporary duty, or TDY, rules on at least 23 occasions, keeping soldiers under him away from home longer than 180 days. Soldiers who are on TDY longer than 180 days are entitled to extra pay.

Meanwhile, some officers and senior non-commissioned officers interviewed by Military.com said that the 5th SFAB is stretched too thin and that the mission demands are too much for the brigade as it struggles to keep soldiers in. It is authorized to have about 800 troops in its ranks, but has lost more than 116 in the past two years -- a staggering metric that has raised concerns over the quality of leadership and intense mission tempo.

Military.com was also first to report that another top officer in the brigade was suspended in May amid an ongoing sexual assault investigation.

Col. Meghann Sullivan, commander of the 5th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 5th SFAB, faces allegations of forcefully kissing one subordinate male officer and groping another below the belt without his consent. She also allegedly sexually harassed another male, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation. Sullivan did not immediately return a request for comment. 

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

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