“Creating a hostile work environment” was the official military explanation for Col. John Merna’s demise as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in Okinawa, a command position he had held since June of 2012.
Insider and anonymous sources report that Col. Merna, while enjoying a headquarters staff party, off-handedly remarked that one of his staff officers acted “gay”. The comment apparently landed too close to home for the officer who immediately reported the comment to the commanding general.
A preliminary inquiry earlier this week unveiled a climate of “intemperate behavior” and inappropriate “language” at the command level, suggesting this was not the first offense by the commander.
Col. Merna immediately accepted responsibility for his actions and submitted a letter requesting “termination of his command authority and responsibility.” The resignation was accepted by Lt. General John Wissler.
Col. Merna, a 24-year veteran and decorated Marine, served in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom before taking this command position in Okinawa.
Lt. Col. G. Troy Roesti was appointed as interim commander for the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, taking command of some 2,000 Marines often referred to as the “tip of the spear” for both amphibious assaults and humanitarian aid for Pacific regions.
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