SUSANNE M. SCHAFER,Associated Press
COLUMBIA, South Carolina (AP) -- The first woman to command the U.S. Army's drill sergeant training took legal action Monday to reclaim her job, alleging she was improperly suspended last year because of sexism and racism and demanding that two of her superiors be investigated for abuse of their authority.
Command Sgt. Maj. Teresa King still does not know what exactly her superiors were investigating when they suspended her Nov. 29, according to her attorney, James Smith. He said the Army has declined to say specifically what it was looking into, beyond a general statement that it involved her conduct.
Smith on Monday filed a legal complaint with the Army against two of King's superiors and wants to have King reinstated to her position. Smith is also asking South Carolina's two senior members of Congress, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. James Clyburn, for a congressional investigation of King's treatment.
Army officials said they wanted to study the complaint first before commenting.
King, who is black, made headlines in 2009 when the Army named her as the first woman to head the Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, the Army's largest training installation.
Smith has statements from King's deputy at the school and an Army colonel who worked with King contending she is a victim of sexism and racism on the part of soldiers who resented her promotion and the national attention it drew.
"It's abundantly clear that there was nothing to warrant her removal. The Army should reinstate her and restore her honorable name," Smith said in an interview with The Associated Press.
The attorney said King, 50, has declined to comment on the actions, saying the complaint stands on its own. But in a rebuttal to the Army, King wrote her superiors, "My instincts tell me that if I were a male, that none of this would have happened."
Smith said he believes the Army is delaying its investigation in order to force King to take retirement when she becomes eligible later this year.
Smith said the complaint is being filed against Maj. Gen. Richard Longo, who ordered King suspended, and his top enlisted aide, Command Sgt. Maj. John Calpena.
Emails to Longo and Calpena were not immediately answered. There was also no immediate response from the Training and Doctrine Command in Fort Eustis, Virginia.
King's deputy, Sgt. Maj. Robert Maggard, who is retiring this week from the Army, said he heard many comments that King had been the subject of "way too much media."
Smith also provided an affidavit from Col. John Bessler, who was King's commanding officer when she was a drill sergeant and who visited her at the drill school after she was named commandant.
Bessler said "a good-ole boy 'network of disgruntlement'" had led to what he called "a character assassination campaign" against King because "her standards are higher than theirs are."
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press