By LUIS MARTINEZ, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — The two-star U.S. Marine Corps general in charge of all Marines in Europe and Africa has been relieved of command following an investigation into his alleged use of a racial slur, according to a U.S. official.
Gen. David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps, relieved Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary of his command of Marine Forces Europe and Africa due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in command,” the Marines announced Tuesday.
Neary had assumed the role of the top commander of Marine forces in Europe and Africa on July 8.
Though no official reason was given for why Neary was relieved of command, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that accounts of his alleged use of a racial slur, first published by Stars and Stripes, were what prompted his removal.
The military newspaper reported two weeks ago that Neary was under investigation for the alleged use of a racial slur in August in Germany.
The Marine Corps confirmed at the time that it was aware of the allegations and that appropriate actions, “regardless of rank,” would be taken if the allegations were substantiated.
According to an updated Stars and Stripes article published on Tuesday, Neary was at an outdoor physical training event for Marines at his headquarters where music was being played over loudspeakers. A witness to the incident told Stripes that after hearing some of the musical artists use a racial slur, Neary asked junior Marines nearby how they would feel if he used the word.
The witness told Stars and Stripes that his comment stunned the young Marines who said 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.”
The investigation into the incident continues, but enough information had emerged that led Berger to relieve Neary of his command, the official told ABC News.
A spokesman for U.S. Marine Forces in Europe and Africa referred ABC News to the Marine Corps statement.
Col. James T. Iulo will serve as the acting commander of U.S. Marine Forces Europe and Africa until a replacement is identified, according to the Marines.
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