Excerpts from military investigations into allegations of toxic leadership
Documents obtained by The Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act document military investigations into personal misconduct by U.S. generals and admirals. Here are excerpts from some of those documents. [Redacted] indicates that the Defense Department redacted the information before releasing the documents to The Post; other words in brackets are edits for clarity.
Retired January 2014
When asked if he had known Maj Gen Schmidt to demonstrate demeaning behavior, Maj [Redacted] stated:
Not in public with me, but behind closed doors almost on a daily basis... I would consider being yelled at, screamed at, um, called an idiot on numerous occasions, um, tell me no [expletive] Sherlock, I consider that demeaning. The screaming and the being called an idiot, yes that was an absolute daily event.
A lieutenant colonel provided the following testimony:
He threw a paperclip at my face within the first couple of weeks of working for him; he flicked it at my face, it hit me in the eye. As a pilot I didn’t appreciate that too much and I told him that, and he goes well sorry about that, maybe you should have been wearing some [expletive] racquetball goggles and he kind of laughed like it was an accident. I do believe it was some of an accident, but he flicked at me on purpose. He also flicked twenty more on the floor, so and told me to pick them up.
Schmidt testified that he tossed the paper clip into an outbox, that it bounced out and that Schmidt did not see it hit anyone. Schmidt said he apologized anyway.
The witnesses described his leadership in the following manners:
- “rough, old school”
- “the worst I’ve seen,” it did not follow the “servant leadership” model, and he created a
- “very hands-on” and detail oriented
- “very aggressive” and “very direct”
-“I’ve seen a lot of good and bad leadership styles in my career, but he’s just down, downright mean... I believe he got to the place he got to because he gets results. Unfortunately, he gets results on the backs of the people that work for him.”
Former commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, now retired
Among the comments made by witnesses about Donahue:
- “I was very glad to leave SPD... I definitely took the assignment in Iraq to get out of SPD... my blood pressure was high... it was just miserable me.”
- “has meetings to express anger for one to four hours and the Staff was wore down mentally, they come out shaking, covering their face, will go home sick or almost brought to tears”
- “there are no secret parties against him, but he is constantly thinking everybody... is out to see him fail”
“When BG Donahue was told that he needed to have a series of counselings before he could permanently remove a civilian employee whom he wanted out of the organization, BG Donahue yelled at the staff and called them ‘enemies of the state.’”
Director, Joint Staff, Connecticut National Guard
Witnesses testified about what happened at the Joint Operations Center during the Hurricane Irene response:
COL (Redacted] testified that there were occasions when BG Mascolo screamed at people in the JOC for not being fast enough. ... COL [Redacted] further testified that there were occasions when BG Mascolo became “unglued” in such a manner that he had “never seen anybody in [his] entire career lose their composure the way he did.” He would get upset, raise his voice, scream and use [profanity] toward the JOC staff.”
Former administrative assistant to Secretary of the Army, now retired
[Redacted] testified that the military staff were expected to get Ms. Morrow’s lunch on a daily basis. but when they were not available, [Redacted] was expected to do so. Ms. Morrow required [Redacted] to have lunch on her desk at a certain time. In some cases, Ms. Morrow had [Redacted] travel from opposite floors and corridors within the Pentagon to get specific meal items from different locations within the Pentagon. Ms. Morrow often provided detailed instructions on how she wanted her meals prepared. The staff knew that when getting Ms. Morrow’s iced tea, she wanted it in a styrofoam cup with a lid, a straw and no ice. If the tea was in the wrong cup, Ms. Morrow would refuse to drink it.
A colonel testified “that Ms. Morrow asked [Redacted] to take 14 pairs of shoes to the Pentagon shoe repair shop to get them fixed. [Redacted] informed Ms. Morrow that [Redacted] was not hired to do such errands, but [Redacted] did it anyway. COL [Redacted] testified that “it was like you were in a Prisoner of War Camp”; if you did not do what Ms. Morrow wanted, she would ridicule you and treat you more harshly.””
“[Morrow] would be “a good leader of an organization without people.” Ms. Morrow’s leadership style was autocratic, demanding and insensitive. She had very little patience for someone being ill or having a death in the family. She had little of the normal human compassion required of a leader. ... If Ms. Morrow disliked a person, other people who were well liked would have to put their name on the disliked person’s actions to get the action through Ms. Morrow.”