Former Commander of the United States Marines in Europe, Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary, who was relieved of his post for using the full “N-word,” was found to be violating the Corps’ standards for leadership according to an internal investigation that has recently been published.
“Neary was relieved due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to serve in command,” the Marine Corps said in 2020.
An internal investigation was conducted by the Inspector General of the Marine Corps on the July 2020 incident that involved Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary and a group of Marines in Stuttgart, Germany.
“Neary failed to demonstrate exemplary conduct, as defined by the standard, through his insensitive comments and lack of awareness and appreciation for how divisive his use of a racial slur would be on his organization and offensive to his Marines,” the report found.
On the morning of July 22, 2020, Neary was in Devil Dog Field, which was right across the Marine headquarters building in Stuttgart, when he heard eight Marines playing the song “Put it On” by the American rapper “Big L.” The group was listening to the song, which explicitly used the N-word while working out.
Neary ordered the troops to change to another song that did not use racial slurs, adding that tolerating these kinds of music could give the wrong impression about the US Marines.
“You cannot play songs that use the ‘n-word’ in it because it is counter to good order and discipline. … We have a problem when we think it is acceptable. Look what is going on across our country,” Neary said in his account for the investigation.
However, according to one Junior Marine, Neary took out some parts of his statement, which included the full use of the N-word.
“[Full n-word] should never be used, and it is a word of hate” before adding that “[full n-word] is the reason ‘you people’ are doing riots in the U.S. ‘you people’ are the reason why the country is the way it is,” is what Neary said according to the Marine, who also filed the complaint with the inspector general.
According to the Marine, Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary went further on, saying that “it’s your generation that’s burning buildings down and starting these protests.”For context, this was the time after the murder of George Floyd incited protests in various states across the US.
Neary also allegedly dared the group to report him to Human Resources, saying, “Go ahead and call HR. I am the head of HR.”
Four other Marines present during the event backed the accusations against Neary. They were also interviewed by the Inspector General. Neary acknowledged himself saying the full N-word once but denied using it multiple times.
Maj. Gen. Stephen Neary also denied using the phrase “you people” or making references to HR to him being the head of the department. However, the investigation revealed that Neary told an unnamed official that “he probably said something like that,” referring to the “you people” remark but said he was “referring to the youth or the young people” rather than a racial community.
“I was using this as a teaching moment, is what I was doing,” Neary told the investigators. “Because again, there is no place for discriminatory behavior at all, in our Marine Corps, across the board.”
Ultimately, the investigation found that “Neary failed to set an example for how to address the situation properly, without escalating it to the point where he unintentionally offended Marines,” which led to his dismissal from command.
Neary was a seasoned member of the Marines. A graduate of Virginia Military Institute, he joined the Corps in 1988. He was an active infantry officer who served as a company commander in Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. He also served as a battalion commander during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He was previously serving as the deputy commander of II Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Lejeune, N.C., before being assigned as commander of the Germany-based Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa on July 8, 2020.
After it was concluded, Neary expressed his criticism of the quality of the investigations and the reports made on the incident. He noted that there were “factual inaccuracies” in the report and conflicts of interest between those who reported him and the investigators and the authorities.
Maj. Gen. Michael Langley took over Neary’s post as commander on November 3, 2020. At the time, he was only one of seven Black general officers in the Marines. Months later, Maj. Gen. Tracy King was given command of the Marine Forces Europe and Africa after a change in command ceremony on May 6, 2021.