08 jnews fraternizationA former 82nd Airborne Division first sergeant has been demoted and reassigned for having an affair with a lower ranking enlisted soldier. Sgt. 1st Class Chase Usher was previously assigned to Company B, 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team. He was removed from his leadership role and given a staff job with another unit, according to reporting by the Army Times.

By early 2017, female recruits began taking basic training at Fort Benning, Georgia’s infantry school, where some of them also completed jump school and were assigned to the 82nd. Usher allegedly began an affair with one of the first woman graduates shortly after she reported to his newly integrated unit late last year. Both have been punished for their actions. 

Female soldiers have been members of the Fort Bragg division, but until 2017, they were not integrated into combat infantry companies. The Army rolled out a leadership plan as the Defense Department lifted the final restrictions on women serving in direct-combat jobs in early 2016. 

An investigation into the affair found Usher was an enthusiastic infantryman, and the relationship didn’t cause any questions of favoritism in the unit. But rumors about the two caused a lot of suspicion among the soldiers he was meant to lead. An Army investigator concluded that the affair had a “corrosive” effect on the unit, the Army Times reported. Usher did not respond to multiple requests for comment through email and Facebook messaging. 

The woman in question arrived at Fort Bragg in August, according to the report. Dozens of soldiers in the company were aware of her September-October relationship with Usher, either because he had talked about it, they’d seen the two in public together or they’d heard rumors about the situation. Investigators said that early this year, the 82nd’s leadership had possession of a photo of the two making out outside Paddy’s Irish Pub in Fayetteville. The photo had already made the battalion rounds, thanks to a group text message. 

Investigation witnesses included three women, who all agreed that Usher treated them as equals in the company. “In a work environment he treats both fairly from what I can tell,” one soldier said in a statement. To some, the relationship seemed out of character for the veteran NCO. Usher had personally led the training to prepare the unit to bring in women. But the investigator itemized graphic details of Usher’s private life. 

A female platoon sergeant said Usher told a group of her colleagues that he was going to be Thor for Halloween but wouldn’t need to carry a hammer. “At multiple safety briefs, (redacted) encourages the company to ‘get (laid)’ and comments that he will be doing so over the weekend.” 

Usher denied the relationship, as well as any past incidents of inappropriate behavior, in his sworn statement. Though the 82nd Airborne declined to provide details of the punishments handed down, Usher is no longer in a position of authority. 

“This behavior does not exemplify the dedicated professionals of the 82nd Airborne Division,” spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Osorio said, adding that the division is committed to fostering trust and respect as the Army works through gender integration. 

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