The US Army suspended and investigated a retired three-star general from a consulting position after appearing to mock First Lady Jill Biden in a now-deleted tweet.

The retired general in question was  Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky, who served the Army previously as a spokesman. Volesky was previously contracted for a $92-an-hour consulting position with the Army before his suspension. The position lets him serve as a “senior mentor,” advising senior military officers, staff, and students participating in war games and various military activities.

Army Spokeswoman Cynthia Smith told USA Today that Lt. Gen. Theodore Martin suspended Volesky and he will remain suspended while waiting for the outcome of the investigation. Lt. Gen. Martin was the Commander of the Combined Arms Center.

The now-deleted tweet by retired Lt. Gen. Volesky responded to a June 24 tweet posted on the first lady’s Twitter account condemning the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its landmark 1973 ruling in Roe v Wade which established the constitutional right to abortion.

The first lady lamented that women’s right to decide about their own bodies had been “stolen” after “nearly 50 years.”

“Glad to see you finally know what a woman is,” Volesky replied in a Twitter account under his name.

Volesky’s remark seemed to echo a common anti-transgender sentiment questioning the validity of transwomen’s identity. This idea gained mainstream attention in an exchange between Sen. Marsha Blackburn and Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during a March confirmation hearing at Jackson’s Supreme Court. During the hearing, Sen. Blackburn pressed Jackson to define the “word” woman in the context of transgender rights. Her response was that she could not say because she was not a biologist. 

USA Today reports that according to the description of the Pentagon’s program where Volesky was hired, his experience and skills were to bring “enlightened thinking” to the military. The Army said that for his work from November 2020 to August 2021, Volesky was paid $50,046 and $18,952 for September 2021 to June 2022.

Maj. Gen. Christopher Cavoli (left), Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky (center), and Maj. Gen. Ronald Clark (right) marched off of Weyand Field during the 25th Infantry Division change of command on Jan. 4. Volesky, I Corps commanding general, hosted the change of command. Clark returns to the division; he served as a company commander and aide-de-camp to the commanding general when he was a captain. Cavoli has been nominated for promotion and will continue his career in Europe. (US Army photo by Staff Sgt. Keith Anderson, 25th Infantry Division Public Affairs)

Senior uniformed officers usually take to great lengths to avoid participating in politics. Volesky’s response was a breach of traditional military decorum for retired military officers on the Pentagon payroll to steer clear of speaking out on partisan political matters. 

An Emeritus Professor of History at Boston University and a Retired Army Colonel, Andrew Bacevich, said in a tweet, 

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“What’s difficult to understand is why he or any other retired senior officer would undermine the military’s reputation for being above politics just to score some cheap partisan points on social media.” 

He was baffled as to why someone like Volesky would risk the military’s reputation.

An expert in civilian-military relations, Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University, said, “Retired military have the right to express their opinions”; however, “that does not make it right.” He added that an errant tweet from a senior retired military is “detrimental to healthy civil-military relations.”

Volesky did not respond to USA Today’s request for comment. Michael LaRosa, a spokesman for Biden, also refused to comment.

Not the First Time

However, it seems that Velosky’s response to the first lady was not the first time he has posted statements on Twitter with political undertones. 

Last July 2021, Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted, “I’m honored to be on Jan. 6th select committee. Our oath to the Constitution must be above partisan politics.” The House Committee was investigating the violent attack on the US Capitol that happened on Jan. 6, 2021. It was when Donald Trump supporters flocked the building to try and stop the congressional certification marking Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 presidential election.

Volesky, in a now also deleted tweet, responded to Cheney’s tweet, “This is all about partisan politics.” 

Who is Retired Lt. Gen. Gary Volesky?

Retired Lt. Gen. Gary Velosky is a decorated, three-star general. He has received a Silver Star, the third-highest honor for valor in the US military, for his service in Iraq. He has also previously served in the war in Afghanistan and the Gulf War. 

Before his retirement in 2020, he was in charge of the US ground forces in Iraq. He was also the commander of the Army’s famed 101st Airborne Division. The division was known as the tip of the spear during WWII’s Normandy Invasion

Lt. Gen. Gary J. Volesky (US Army, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

During his 36-year career in the military, he also served as the chief of the Army’s Public Affairs division from 2012 to 2014.

Volesky is now one of the latest of many retired military officers who have made statements with political undertones that show partisanship in recent years. Another notable one is retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has become increasingly partisan. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Flynn made several controversial statements against Hillary Clinton. Flynn briefly served former President Donald Trump as his national security adviser but was fired for lying to federal investigators in 2017.

Concerns about politics intruding on the political neutrality of retired military officers were not of much concern in October 2020, when the press headlines were about 780 former generals and national security leaders signing their names to a letter condemning President Trump just a month before the election. The effort was led by the former vice chief of the army, Peter Chiarelli.  The signatories included  22 retired four-star generals and admirals and five former secretaries of defense. In their “Open Letter to America,” they endorsed Joe Biden for president.

General Chiarelli stated that he made the decision to lead this effort after speaking to his “old friend” and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Mark Milley.