The Marine Corps has removed a two-star general from command of Marine forces in Europe and Africa following allegations that he used a racial slur while speaking with subordinates, the Marine Corps said Tuesday. Maj. Gen. Stephen M. Neary was relieved “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in command,” the service said in a statement.
Neary had assumed command in July. The decision to relieve him of command was made by the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger. The move comes amid recent protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death that have led to a larger conversation on racial and social injustice in America.
The military has also had to answer questions about reports of a lack of diversity in its senior ranks and its poor treatment of minority troops, especially those in the military criminal justice system.
Neary, according to Capt. Joseph Butterfield used a racial slur during a recent training event with Marine subordinates at the Marine Forces Europe and Africa headquarters in Boeblingen, Germany, in August. The Marines are still investigating the incident but Berger removed Neary based on preliminary findings, Butterfield said.
The Stars and Stripes newspaper reported some two weeks ago that Neary was under investigation for the alleged use of a derogatory term for Black people in the presence of other Marines in Germany.
A witness at the parade field told Stars and Stripes that Neary overheard the N-word at an outdoor physical training event for Marines where music was being played over loudspeakers. Neary then repeated the N-word in the presence of junior Marines asking them how they would feel if he used it, the witness said.
His comment came as a shock to the young Marines, including Black and Latino Marines who indicated that even if Neary “was attempting to be instructive about the taboo nature of the word, it came as a shock to hear it from a white general officer.”
Berger had, amid the Black Lives Matter protests, issued a statement to Marines in June that prejudice, “direct or indirect, intentional or unintentional,” would not be allowed.
Neary, before assuming command of Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa three months ago, served as deputy commander of the II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C., according to Stars and Stripes newspaper. It added that the Boston native led Marines during Operation Iraqi Freedom in Fallujah and Ramadi as a battalion commander. Neary was in 1988 commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from Virginia Military Institute.
Col. James T. Iulo will now serve as the acting commander of U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa until a replacement is found, the Marines said.