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Officials: General fired over alcohol, sex allegations

Apr. 4, 2013 - 07:54PM   |  
Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker
Maj. Gen. Ralph O. Baker (AFRICOM)
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WASHINGTON — An Army major general with U.S. Africa Command has been relieved of his post in connection with alcohol and sexual misconduct charges, defense officials said Thursday.

Officials said Maj. Gen. Ralph Baker, commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, was fired from his command last Thursday and he was fined a portion of his pay by Gen. Carter Ham, head of U.S. Africa Command, after an administrative hearing and review. The officials said Ham lost confidence in Baker's ability to command. The Washington Post reported April 6 that two officials familiar with Baker's case told the Post that Baker was investigated for allegedly groping a female civilian employee after he had been drinking.

Baker has appealed the administrative action to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. But since senior commanders such as Ham have broad latitude in decisions to relieve subordinates of command, Hagel's decision may focus more on the financial punishment doled out by Ham, officials said.

Details of how much his pay was docked were not released.

The allegations against Baker involve harassment and inappropriate contact, said the officials, who were not authorized to talk publicly about the case so spoke on condition of anonymity.

Baker took over the task force, based at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, last May and was scheduled to leave the job in the near future.

He has returned to Washington and is temporarily serving as a special assistant to the director of the Army staff while he awaits Hagel's decision. Such special assistant posts are routinely used as way stations for general officers who are under investigation and awaiting their fate, or for others who have been promoted and are waiting for their new job to open up.

Ham is retiring and is scheduled to turn over his command to Army Gen. David Rodriguez in a ceremony Friday.

Ham's predecessor, Army Gen. William “Kip” Ward, was demoted in rank from four stars to three, and retired as a lieutenant general after investigators determined that he had misused government funds for lavish spending while heading U.S. Africa Command.

Baker is also one in a string of general officers who have been reprimanded or investigated for possible sexual misconduct.

The issue has raised the ire of Congress, where lawmakers have complained that military and defense leaders have not done enough to combat sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.

In particular, a recent decision by Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin to reverse the sexual assault conviction against Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former inspector general at Aviano Air Base in Italy, infuriated senators. And it triggered calls for a harder look at the military's justice system.

Hagel has ordered a review of Franklin's decision, but he has told members of Congress that neither he nor the Air Force secretary is empowered to overrule Franklin, who is the commander of the 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.

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