WASHINGTON -- The commander of an Army unit that beat, threatened and abused civilians in Kosovo has been selected for a plum assignment at the Army War College, keeping him on track for possible promotion to general.
An Army investigation concluded last month that the officer, Lt. Col. Michael D. Ellerbe, was responsible for creating a climate in his battalion that led to repeated mistreatment of civilians during its deployment in Kosovo from September 1999 through March of this year.
The investigation recommended that Ellerbe be reprimanded for dereliction of duty. But despite the prospect of serious disciplinary action, Ellerbe has been selected to study at the Army War College or an equivalent "senior service" school. Attendance at one of those institutions, which teach strategic leadership, is almost essential in rising to the top of today's military.
Ellerbe's selection provoked surprise inside the Army, where many people had assumed that the investigation's scathing conclusions had effectively finished his career. Soldiers at Fort Bragg "can't believe" that Ellerbe was tapped for the War College, one officer there said Wednesday. "That unit was a street gang in Kosovo -- an embarrassment to the United States Army."
The unit had beaten civilians, pointed rifles in their faces, fondled women at checkpoints and engaged in other abuses, according to the report.
Although Ellerbe denied knowing about the most serious incidents, the investigation concluded that he "knew or should have known" about the abuses. It said he failed to investigate allegations.
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