Actually, that wouldn't surprise me at all.
It's not etched in stone, but officer's wives play a big role in their careers. Some take a more active role than others, and they can have both a positive and negative impact.
Col. Drinkwine wrote in his sworn statement that he never let personal issues creep into his professional evaluations of Soldiers.
But two battalion commanders -- Lt. Col Frank Jenio and Lt. Col. David Oclander -- told Spillman they believe disputes with Dr. Drinkwine were an unstated cause for professional retaliation.
Jenio, who was in charge of 800 troops operating just outside Kandahar, was relieved of command in Afghanistan along with his top enlisted adviser, Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Bert Puckett, on Jan. 13. They were sent home to Fort Bragg for "using poor judgment" that "fostered a command climate that was not consistent with our Army values," an 82nd Airborne Division spokesman said at the time.
The Observer later discovered that racially and sexually offensive Powerpoint slides shown during briefings led to their removal.
Jenio, who declined an interview request, paints a different picture in his sworn statement.
Dr. Drinkwine and Jenio's wife, Sherri, were often at odds, according to multiple statements
Frank Jenio said in his statement that during one heated phone conversation last year, Dr. Drinkwine threatened to have him fired.
Jenio said Col. Drinkwine failed to address the problems his wife was causing and stayed isolated from his subordinates. Dr. Drinkwine would often use the threat of "telling Brian" when she had a disagreement with a family member or Soldier, he said, and Col. Drinkwine made matters worse by giving the impression that she had influence over him.
Jenio said in his statement that the need to deal with the FRG challenges nearly every other day took away valuable time he could have been using to focus on the war.
Dr. Drinkwine sometimes used a pseudonym on the website Fortbragglife.com. She told Spillman she "lurked" on the site to get a pulse of the issues and to benefit the brigade.
Once, she became an online friend of a Soldier's wife who worried that her husband was cheating on her, according to the report.
Dr. Drinkwine found out the woman's name, as well as the Soldier's name and unit, which turned out to be Jenio's.
She then passed along the name to her husband. Col. Drinkwine directed Jenio to order counseling for the Soldier, according to multiple sworn statements.
The woman had spoken in confidence to an FRG staff member but had never planned to involve her husband's chain of command and never suspected she was confiding online to the brigade commander's wife, according to a statement from an FRG staff member. After the counseling was ordered, the report shows, the woman thought she had been betrayed by the FRG staff member.
"Mrs. Drinkwine's overbearing influence on the entire command, combined with Col. Drinkwine's self isolation from the battalion commanders and his subordinate battalions, has alienated the battalions from the brigade and created the most dysfunctional military unit I've ever seen or heard of," Jenio wrote in his sworn statement.
On Jan. 20, one of Drinkwine's battalion commanders -- Lt. Col. David Oclander -- sent an e-mail to a three-star general. The e-mail was attached to Spillman's report. Oclander wrote that someone needed to stand up for Jenio because he believed the firing was due to an ongoing feud between the Drinkwines and the Jenios.
Oclander said Jenio may have used poor judgment but he doesn't think the crime fit the punishment.
He called the firing "inappropriate and motivated by unethical influence." He said Dr. Drinkwine's influence on her husband and the brigade's command environment was "toxic and beyond destructive."
In the same e-mail, Oclander wrote that since Jenio's dismissal, "I feel as though I have been indirectly threatened 2-3 times to keep me quiet or my command will be in jeopardy next."
Oclander in his sworn statement said he believes a mediocre assessment he received on a performance review was related to personal disputes with the Drinkwines.
Oclander said he tried at least three times to speak personally with Col. Drinkwine about the uncomfortable command climate. None of the meetings resulted in any meaningful changes, he said.
Helmick said Jenio's relief of command has nothing to do with Dr. Drinkwine.
"There is no link between that and this. None whatsoever. Not even close," said Helmick, whose investigation began the week after Jenio's dismissal.
Col. Drinkwine, in his sworn statement, said he never let the personal problems become professional ones.
"Although there were at times tension between my spouse and one or two of the battalion commanders' spouses, it in no way affected my judgment, or my assessments of their abilities to be effective commanders or how I viewed them," he wrote.
He said Jenio's battalion FRG consistently operated on the fringes of his guidance.
He also said that at least one battalion commander "is in denial of his shortfalls" and has convinced himself that the real issue is the relationship between their spouses.
The commander of Fort Bragg has barred the wife of an 82nd Airborne Division colonel from nearly all interaction with her husband's brigade and the unit's families after an investigation found her influence "detrimental to the morale and well-being of both."
Sworn statements from the investigation, ordered in January by Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, accuse Col. Brian Drinkwine's wife, Leslie Drinkwine, of using her husband's position as leverage to repeatedly harass and threaten Soldiers and their families.
The statements say the harassment and threats began almost as soon as Col. Drinkwine took command of the 4th Brigade Combat Team in 2008.
A follow-up to Helmick's investigation has reached the highest levels of leadership in Afghanistan. That investigation is exploring whether animosity between the Drinkwines and Col. Drinkwine's battalion commanders and their spouses ever unfairly damaged the officers' careers.
Helmick, who took command of Fort Bragg in November, said he was told that the former Fort Bragg commander, Gen. Lloyd Austin, had told Col. Drinkwine before the deployment to take care of the issues.
But the situation festered.
Helmick, in a letter addressed to Dr. Drinkwine, wrote, "even though [Lt. Gen. Austin] and [Maj. Gen. Scaparrotti] have discussed the command climate within the 4th Brigade Combat Team with your husband, the actions that he took have not been sufficient."
Helmick's order bans Dr. Drinkwine from holding any leadership position, directly or indirectly, in the 4th Brigade or its FRG; participation in any activity or function of the 4th BCT or its FRG, except for attendance at memorial services; being present in any 4th BCT building, including barracks and headquarters buildings; and contacting any member of the 4th BCT leadership or FRG leadership except contact with her husband.
The order remains in effect until Col. Drinkwine no longer commands the 4th BCT or until the Drinkwines leave Fort Bragg, whichever happens later.
"Sometimes, you've got to do things that are in the best interest of the organization, not in the best interest of the person, and that's what I did," Helmick said. "As a commander, you've got to make those decisions."
Helmick said tension among commanders' spouses isn't uncommon. He once had to deal with a similar case in Italy, he said. But Helmick said he has never heard of a written order like his because most similar situations are resolved verbally.
Violation of Helmick's order could result in banishment from Fort Bragg, a step Helmick said he would not want to take.
Helmick said the climate in the 4th Brigade rear leadership and FRG has improved since he issued the order in February.
"I'm not saying it's perfect, but it is working OK." Helmick said. "We're going to make this work. We're going to muddle through until the unit comes home. We have to."
His wife, Leslie, has a doctorate degree and teaches marketing courses at Campbell University.
Being a silly civilian Im just stunned that a wife caused this BS. Oh Im sorry..make that Dr. Wife.
It's not the first time a wife has hitched herself to her husbands rank and unfortunately, won't be the last either.