Investigation throws commanding officer into media spotlight Shadley began 30-year career at Aberdeen

November 12, 1996|By Dan Thanh Dang and Scott Shane | Dan Thanh Dang and Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

Almost 30 years ago, Robert D. Shadley was a brand new Army officer training at the Ordnance Center and School at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Today, as a major general with combat experience in Vietnam and Desert Storm behind him, he's back as the commanding officer of the school as it is shaken by one of the biggest sexual misconduct scandals in the history of the Army.

And as Army officials aggressively take the case to the media, saying they have no intention of covering up any misdeeds, Shadley, 54, has been a constant presence on television screens across the nation. It is an uncommon role for an officer more accustomed to coordinating the handling of equipment for the Army.

At the Aberdeen school, a captain and a drill sergeant have been charged with rape, three other drill sergeants charged with improper relations with trainees and 15 other sergeants suspended for possible misconduct.

Since the story broke Thursday, Shadley, an Ohio native, has been a key figure in the Army's publicity campaign, expressing official outrage at the charges and offering words of comfort to parents who have entrusted their daughters and sons to the Army. He has appeared on morning TV news shows, has been quoted in the nation's largest newspapers and has presided in a series of crowded news briefings.

In one news conference, he was near tears as he described the sacred trust the military places in instructors who are given power over vulnerable recruits.

"Trainees are very special young soldiers," he said. "They are taught to be respectful and obey the orders of their leaders."

He called the allegations that trainers had preyed sexually on their students "absolutely deplorable. We as leaders have a responsibility to care for our soldiers and it breaks your heart when we don't."

Shadley brought in a military investigator to interview hundreds of women who have passed through the courses at Aberdeen in the past two years. He convened a panel including military police, lawyers, and mental health workers to monitor the widening investigation.

The lawyer for Staff Sgt. Nathanael C. Beach, 32, who has been accused of having consensual sex with a female recruit, has accused the Army of trying the case in the media instead of the courtroom.

But Shadley's subordinates say his public pursuit of the case reflects his devotion to the Army and to the soldiers under his command.

"It didn't surprise me that he got a little emotional on this," said Lt. Col. Johnnie Allen, Shadley's deputy at Aberdeen. "Here's a man with great moral courage and moral convictions. He's got an Army to take care of and a wrong that had occurred and he was going to set that straight."

Shadley declined to be interviewed.

His official biography shows him to be an experienced and highly decorated officer who has been awarded the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

He served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait from December 1990 to May 1991 as a commander in the 1st Infantry Division. Since then he has spent two years as executive officer to the commander of the Materiel Command in Alexandria, Va., and a year as director for logistics at the U.S. Atlantic Command in Norfolk, Va.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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