WASHINGTON — The Army has stripped a disgraced former division commander of one star and forced him to retire for having an inappropriate relationship with a female captain on his staff.
Wayne Grigsby will leave the service as a one-star general, the Army announced nine months after it fired him from commanding the First Infantry Division in September 2016. Grigsby had been weeks away from deploying to Iraq when the Army recalled him to Washington. He became the first division commander to be relieved in more than 45 years.
In a stinging letter of reprimand, Gen. Daniel Allyn, the vice chief of the Army, wrote that the “manner and frequency” of his communication with the woman compromised the chain of command and created the perception that she was given preferential treatment. Allyn noted that Grigsby had been warned by his top aides about the public appearance of the relationship but continued.
“In doing so, you placed your personal interests above those of the unit as it prepared for combat,” Allyn wrote.
Grigsby, in a statement, apologized and said he “volunteered” to be retired at the lower grade. The Army requires that officers retire at the last grade they served satisfactorily.
"While I am embarrassed and disappointed in myself, I am more deeply troubled by the pain I know that I have caused my family, the First Infantry Division, the United States Army and all those with whom I have served our nation these past 35 years,” Grigsby said in his statement. “To them, I offer my sincerest apologies.”
The Washington Post first reported Grigsby’s punishment.
"Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby will retire at the rank of brigadier general after an investigation by the Inspector General of the United States Army determined that he had engaged in an inappropriate relationship and he received a written reprimand that was filed in his official file," said Cynthia Smith, an Army spokeswoman. "He had earlier been relieved from command, pending the outcome of the investigation."
In September, the Army issued a brief statement in September announcing that Grigsby had been fired from his post leading the “Big Red One.” The division has seen combat some of the America’s bloodiest battlefields from the Argonne Forest in World War I to D-Day in World II to Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Grigsby joins a growing list of rising stars in the military laid low for misconduct in the last year. The Army has stripped ranks from former Lt. Gen. Ron Lewis, the former top military adviser to the Defense secretary, and Maj. Gen. David Haight, who oversaw military operations in Europe, following investigations into personal failings. Lewis lost his job after running up tabs on his government credit card at strip clubs; Haight’s decade-long affair and “swinging lifestyle” cost him his stars.
Like Lewis and Haight, Grigsby had enjoyed steady advancement to the upper reaches of Army leadership. A decorated combat veteran, Grigsby commanded Army infantry units from the platoon to division levels. He led troops in war zones from Kosovo to Iraq to Afghanistan. He also commanded the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, a key counter-terrorism post in Djibouti.
Grigsby’s affair halted his ascent and left him in a rare and undesirable club. Maj. Gen. James Baldwin was the last division commander to be relieved after an investigation found him negligent in at attack that left 33 dead and 83 wounded at Fire Support Base Mary Ann in Vietnam on March 28, 1971.
Warned about relationship
The inspector general's report on Grigsby cited multiple times when fellow senior officers and subordinates warned Grigsby about growing concerns that he and the female captain serving on his staff were having an inappropriate relationship.
Witnesses said Grigsby used a "burner phone" to conduct personal calls with the captain, whom he called or texted often. During a "live fire" exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif., a witness said Grigsby was constantly on the phone with the captain.
"Every time I turned around, he would call her," said the witness, whose identity was obscured in the report.
Another witness, whose identity was redacted, testified about warning Grigsby about the perceptions that his relationship with the captain was too close. "Grigsby got defensive, and said he was close to a lot of officers," the report said.
The report did not determine if Grigsby's relationship with the captain was physical, but it did cite the accounts of witnesses who said they saw his black Dodge Ram pickup truck parked at her home.
Grigsby told investigators that he was mentoring the captain, who was a logistics specialist. Investigators, however, disagreed, noting that "the evidence did not support MG Grigsby's claim that this was part of mentoring junior officers, as other junior officers were rarely included in the correspondence."
Investigators also concluded that the female captain had her own motives for the relationship with Grigsby: "The evidence indicated that the relationship between MG Grigsby and [redacted] was exploitative, in that they both used the situation to gain an advantage or benefit."