THE Pentagon has been hit by what
could be the most embarrassing scandal since drunken
fighter pilots went wild at a Las Vegas convention six
A woman has accused the army's senior enlisted man,
Sgt Major Gene McKinney, 46, of molesting her twice, on
one occasion at a hotel while his wife was in a nearby
room. He stepped down yesterday from his position on the
Army's Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment.
The case - one of 1,050 under examination - is causing
panic in the military as the woman, a former drill
sergeant major, says her superiors knew about the
incidents, and yet appointed her attacker to the
harassment panel, established to stop sexual misconduct
in the ranks.
Colonel John Smith, director of the Army's public
communications, said: "Sergeant Major McKinney
denies he ever engaged in any form of sexual misconduct
or improper treatment. He has, appropriately, excused
himself from the duties pertaining to the investigation
of sexual harassment." Just a few days ago, the
accused soldier was praised at a White House ceremony by
President Clinton for his service to the country.
Brenda Hoster, 38, said: "Here is this army that
I served in for 20 years with a system of leadership I
believed in. Here is a bunch of people I would have stood
in any foxhole with and defended their lives with mine.
They sold me out."
Ms Hoster painted a different picture of the man who
advises the army chief of staff, Gen Dennis Reimer, on
everything from the conduct of the 410,000 soldiers under
his command to their health care. His Pentagon office is
next door to the general's. Ms Hoster was assigned to
deal with Sgt Major McKinney's public relations after
being awarded a Bronze Star for her work in Saudi Arabia
dealing with journalists after the Gulf war.
In a 13-page sworn statement she told of first being
approached at a house at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She
said she was summoned one evening to the sitting room by
McKinney who was angry over an interview with reporters
that had apparently gone badly. He blamed her, and other
aides, for not preparing him properly.
Ms Hoster told him that she was upset. He said that
she need not be defensive. She recalled: "He said
with a smirk, 'You think you're tough, don't you'? Then
he stood up and stepped towards me, leaned over the
couch, placing his hands on the back of the couch,
pinning me between him and the couch, and said, 'You just
need a good butt-whooping'."
She said she then pushed him off and left. Later, when
they were in Hawaii visiting troops a month after
McKinney's 18-year-old son had died in a car crash, Ms
Hoster said she was in her hotel room in Honolulu when he
knocked on her door wanting to continue an earlier
Once inside the room, he complained about his aides,
saying they had no idea of his personal anguish. Ms
Hoster told him to go to his wife who was in a room down
the hall. However, she alleged that he started making
overtures, saying: "You know, you're just what I
need right now." She said he kissed her on the lips.
"I pushed him away and said, 'Sergeant Major, you
have just crossed the line'."
She claimed that as she walked to the door McKinney
said: "I could take you right here, right now."
She said she opened the door but he closed it and grabbed
her by the waist, lifting her a foot off the ground.
"He said, 'Ah, what a nice body you have'."
She said she demanded that he release her, which he did,
complaining that she had sexually excited him. She
overcame her fears and eventually reported the details
seven weeks later to a sergeant major and a colonel after
friends had told her to seek help.
But with no reaction from the army, she decided to
leave the army to work in a dental surgery in Santa
Teresa, New Mexico. She filed charges after hearing about
McKinney's appointment to the commission. "It wasn't
right," she said. "He doesn't have any business
being on that panel."
Though McKinney has suspended his duties on the sexual
harassment panel he will continue to act as the Army's
senior enlisted adviser.
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