General suspended for alleged meddling in ex-assistant’s command board

by Vern Evans

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth suspended one of the service’s top generals Friday following “credible allegations” that he improperly influenced a former subordinate’s command assessment, according to an official statement provided to Army Times.

Wormuth’s spokesperson, Col. Randee Farrell, said the secretary first learned this week of allegations that “Gen. Charles Hamilton, commanding general of Army Materiel Command (AMC), interfered in the Army’s Command Assessment Program (CAP) process last fall.” Military.com first reported the alleged misconduct.

Farrell added that the Army has referred the matter for review by the Defense Department’s inspector general.

“Secretary Wormuth has temporarily suspended General Hamilton from his duties as AMC Commander pending the outcome of the DoDIG review and assessment, and any subsequent investigation,” she said.

The Army will also review “the entirety of the command selection process to determine what additional steps may be needed to ensure maximum fairness and integrity in the … process,” Farrell said.

Hamilton came under scrutiny after a Nov. 1 memorandum surfaced from Col. Robert O’Brien, the Command Assessment Program director, that chronicled Hamilton’s alleged interference in the Battalion Command Assessment Program process for his former assistant, who assessment officials unanimously deemed “not yet ready” for command.

O’Brien declined an interview request through an Army spokesperson, and Hamilton, through a command spokesperson, declined to answer directly emailed questions.

The Army has boasted of the assessment program’s seeming success to Congress and others since its establishment in 2019. The service has also created similar programs for selecting brigade commanders, senior enlisted leaders and high-level chaplains.

The assessment culminates in a double-blind interview, during which time a panel of Army leaders anonymously interview the candidate and consider their performance across a series of physical and mental tests, subordinate and peer feedback from previous assignments, and an evaluation by a psychologist.

Service officials have claimed the program will reduce toxic leaders in the force and improve soldiers’ experience. The program’s own guide says it is “fair … [and] will neither advantage nor disadvantage any candidate based on their past experiences or current assignment.”

But the allegations against Hamilton threaten to undermine that credibility. Farrell said Wormuth, who ordered the review of the command selection programs, “is committed to the integrity of the CAP process as it matures and develops.”

According to O’Brien’s memo, the four-star general repeatedly asked BCAP officials to furnish him a summary of the subordinate and peer evaluations for a lieutenant colonel who had previously served as his military assistant and assistant executive officer. Such evaluations are considered extremely sensitive in order to encourage respondents to provide honest feedback.

Hamilton then “specifically requested to observe” the lieutenant colonel’s interview at the Fort Knox, Kentucky-based event. Army Times is not naming the lieutenant colonel because the memorandum does not accuse her of any wrongdoing.

After observing her final double-blind interview, Hamilton purportedly told Col. Townley Hedrick, the program’s chief of staff, that he thought the psychologist’s briefing to the panel was “too negative” and “may have biased the panel.” O’Brien said that assessment officials disagreed with Hamilton on the matter, and the voting members of the panel unanimously cited “counterproductive leadership” as their reason for rejecting the officer.

The four-star then pressured Hedrick to grant the officer a re-do, according to the memo. O’Brien recalled granting the second chance “solely based on General Hamilton’s request,” which Hedrick attributed to “technical issues” when notifying the lieutenant colonel of her new interview for the following day, Nov. 1.

Before the second interview occurred, Hamilton reportedly called three general officers who were part of the pool of interview panel members to discuss their “voting parameters” and the lieutenant colonel. It’s unclear from the memorandum whether any of the three officers — Maj. Gen. Jeth Rey, Maj. Gen. Trevor Bredenkamp and now-Maj. Gen. Hope Rampy — sat on either of the lieutenant colonel’s interview panels.

Hamilton allegedly called and texted Hedrick and O’Brien throughout the day in search of updates on his former assistant’s performance. She again was found not yet ready for command, this time by a 3-2 vote.

The lieutenant colonel, despite her unfavorable results, was ultimately selected for battalion command, according to a selection list obtained by Army Times. It is unclear how she appeared on the list, but she won’t take command — Wormuth ordered that “no officer assessed by CAP as not yet certified for command” will do so this year, Farrell said.

Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, Army Materiel Command’s deputy commander, will assume Hamilton’s duties during his suspension, Farrell said.

Hamilton has benefited from other senior leader misconduct in the past. He earned his third star and became the Army’s deputy chief of staff for logistics in 2022 after an investigation found that his supervisor, retired Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, “displayed counterproductive leadership.”

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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