The US Army, in a rare disciplinary act against a four-star officer, said today it relieved Gen Kevin Byrnes of his command in the midst of an investigation into unspecified “personal conduct".
Byrnes was relieved as commander of US Army Training and Doctrine Command yesterday by Army Chief of Staff Gen Peter Schoomaker, according to a brief statement issued by Army headquarters at the Pentagon.
In that post, Byrnes oversaw all Army training programmes and the development of war-fighting guidelines. It operates 33 training schools and centres on 16 Army installations.
Although disciplinary action against general officers is not uncommon, it is extremely rare for a four-star general to be relieved of command. Byrnes held the position as commander of Training and Doctrine Command since November 2002. Before that he was director of the Army staff at Army headquarters in the Defence Department.
“The investigation upon which this relief is based is undergoing further review to determine the appropriate final disposition of this matter,” the Army statement said.
A spokesman for Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Bryan Whitman, said the investigation involved “matters of personal conduct,” but he would not say more.
Other officials said the matter was being investigated by the Defence Department Inspector General.
Among the four-star general or flag officers to have been relieved of command in recent years was Navy Adm Richard Macke, sacked as commander of Pacific Command in 1995 for remarks he made about the case of US Marines accused of raping a 12-year-old Japanese girl, and Gen Michael Dugan, who was fired as chief of staff of the Air Force in 1990 for comments to reporters about planning for the 1991 Gulf War.
Army officials said they were not immediately able to cite the last time a four-star Army general was relieved of duty.
With the departure of Byrnes, the deputy commander of Training and Doctrine Command, Lt Gen Anthony Jones, has been designated the acting commander, said Army spokesman Paul Boyce.
The spokesman said it was an Army policy not to release information about specific allegations in an investigation of an Army officer.
In April the Pentagon announced that Lt Gen William Wallace had been nominated fora four star and assignment as commander of Training and Doctrine Command, to succeed Byrnes, but he has not yet been confirmed by the Senate. There was no public indication at the time that Byrnes was under investigation.