Warning signs totally ignored in SF Col’s case prior to his armed standoff with police

| January 4, 2021

Army Times is reporting an update on the case of Colonel Owen Ray.

Complaint about Green Beret colonel’s ‘overreactions’ was dismissed months before police standoff

An inspector general complaint about an Army Special Forces group commander’s alleged overreactions and berating of subordinates was dismissed months before he was accused of domestic violence and engaging in an armed, two-hour standoff with police near Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, on Dec. 27.

The IG complaint signals that at least some leaders were aware another officer had raised doubts about the Green Beret colonel’s temperament. It also raises the question of whether officers earmarked for greater authority are properly held to account by investigations from within their own chain of command.

Former 1st Special Forces Group boss Col. Owen G. Ray, 47, was suspended from his latest role as chief of staff for I Corps after he was arrested and charged by Pierce County prosecutors with two counts of felony harassment, one count of kidnapping, two counts of assault and one count of reckless endangerment.

The charges stemmed from a night that court documents alleged involved Ray hitting his wife, grabbing a pistol and rifle from his gun locker and threatening to kill police if they attempted to arrest him.

“Col. Ray’s decorated career as a soldier is a testament to his service to our country,” Jared E. Ausserer, an attorney with Puget Law Group representing Ray, said in a statement. “He understands the seriousness of these allegations and hopes to take advantage of services and counseling to better himself as husband and a father, in hopes that [he can] get back to his family that he loves more than anything.”

But prior to the Dec. 27 incident, concerns about Ray had already been raised in an IG complaint made by a Green Beret officer who served under him at 1st Group. Ausserer declined to comment on the complaint.

“They always say ‘see something; say something,’ but the Army has to do something too,” said the now-retired officer who made the complaint and asked to remain anonymous to protect his new career. “At the end of the day, this is a failure on the leadership in the SF channels.”

A substantiated investigation could have sparked a range of actions, from anger management counseling to relief of command, the officer explained.

However, 1st Special Forces Command’s IG office returned the complaint as “not substantiated” this June, according to records reviewed by Army Times.

One month later, Ray was elevated to be I Corps’ chief of staff, a coveted role that often leads to the general officer ranks. Before being suspended, though, Ray was not in a promotable status, according to I Corps.

The complaint alleged Ray created a toxic command climate by setting expectations that everyone should act like him, which meant putting work before all else, even family relationships.

“He exacerbates this expectation by shaming people in public and berating them,” a statement submitted with the original complaint reads. “Additionally, he regularly overreacts on little information and has emotional outbursts.”

Ray pushed key staff to work 14-hour days and discouraged the complaining officer from carving out time in the evenings to be with his family for dinner, according to the statement.

Much more at the source. Not surprising but still totally unsat.

Category: "The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves", Army, Army News

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A Terminal Lance Coolie

The Army dropped the ball hard on this one, it seems. There were enough complaints with concerning behaviors the IG should have found the complaint substantiated.

The blurb at the end is striking, too. We never do hear about lessons learned from senior officer shakeups. Someone retires and thats that. I’m pretty sure thats just to shield the buddy-buddy circlejerk at higher levels of command. Quiet retirements mean others don’t have to admit they overlooked warning signs when promoting someone.

KoB

Good chance ATLC. Back yonder we knew all about the “Ring Knockers” or The local chapter of The WPPA (West Point Protective Association). And many times the quiet retirement or reassignment ceremony was to cover the azz of higher that should coulda woulda had oughta done something/anything. Hard to say, I wasn’t there and I have no clue what is going on inside the Colonel’s head or with his demons. Looking at his been there done that record, not sure if I would want to know.

Just as one has to look with a close eye and a grain or two of salt to the claims of a mate, thus you have to look closely at the claims of a possible disgruntled subordinate. I have the deepest sympathy for the Colonel and do hope that he gets the fair trial and help that he deserves. My personal take is that this situation is caused by the endless political wars that we have asked our Troops to sacrifice their lives and American Treasure for. Crying shame.

A Terminal Lance Coolie

I hope he gets the trial, and help, he deserves, too.

My major beef with the Army is that there’s enough in the complaint there to warrant a look. If the reporter is the problem instead, punish the reporter for false reporting. That alone would go a long way to stopping disgruntled subordinates from abusing the system.

MI Ranger

As most of us have seen in the SOF community, it is likely the IG spoke with others and since no one was willing to put it in writing they said it was unsubstantiated. Being forced to stay late at work (unless it is an exercise), should have been the first warning sign for the IG, this guy is not a good leader. I always stayed late and usually got told to go home…but then maybe it was because they didn’t want me to hear something (said conspiratorially)!

timactual

” Being forced to stay late at work (unless it is an exercise), should have been the first warning sign for the IG, ”

LOL.
14+ hour days,nights, weeks and weekends….sounds like my year at Benning. We spent so few nights sleeping in the barracks that SOP was to keep our bedding in our wall lockers and made up bunks as needed. No inspections because there were never enough troops to either prepare for or stand one. Wish I had known then about “overwork” being a good excuse to visit the IG.

A Terminal Lance Coolie

Overwork really depends on the job in question. I was a grunt. Field ops were expected, and, truth be told, I was surprised at how LITTLE we were in the field prior to my Iraq deployment. Even when we worked long days, they weren’t 14 hours usually, though. Thats outside the norm.

On its own, long days aren’t a problem, if they have a reason. The commentary about the soldiers families, the PT runs without care for his soldiers health, the slamming things on desks, those are all small things that add up to much larger temperament problems. I remember exactly one time my NCOs PT’d a Marine half to death, without real care for his health. It was the day all the combat vets discovered one of my fellow boots had set up his MySpace profile to suggest he’d been to Iraq already, complete with confirmed kills and a Bronze Star. Even the dumbass Private who damn near shit our LT in the foot in Jordan didn’t get it that bad.

I suspect MI Ranger is right. They couldn’t get anyone but the original claimant to put anything to writing, so the Colonels attitude problems were swept under the rug.

timactual

” Thats outside the norm.”

My point was that it was the norm for my company, and I am not paranoid enough to think it was only the norm for my company only for the year I was there.

I find the different attitudes then and now to be amusing. I am also a bit jealous of this new “kinder, gentler” Army where such overwork is a matter of such concern.

HMCS(FMF) ret

Just read the Army Times article and can’t stop shaking my head. Sounds like a male version of Holly Graf…

MustangCryppie

A friend of mine was PCS’d to Churchill when Graf was CO.

Before Graf he was one of the most gung ho Sailors I have ever known. He LOVED the Navy.

After Graf he was completely deflated. It was heartbreaking to see. His whole career has been colored by that crazy woman

HMCS(FMF) ret

She destroyed a lot of people… I’ve never heard a positive thing about her as either a CO or as an XO.

MustangCryppie

“Ray pushed key staff to work 14-hour days and discouraged the complaining officer from carving out time in the evenings to be with his family for dinner, according to the statement.”

I’m sure there were incidents much worse than this, but I have to say that I think everyone here can identify with 14 hour days and not having dinner with the family. Never entered my mind to submit an IG complaint because of that.

David

Worked those kind of hours both as military and civilian…WHEN NECESSARY. Doing it routinely? Would have told me my superiors didn’t give a damn, and worse, did not know how to properly staff. Reminds me of the Chinese 996 philosophy… work from 9AM to 9PM 6 days a week, just to demonstrate dedication.

TDG

I agree 100%. It is done as needed. If those kind of hours are routinely needed, either that unit is overtasked, understaffed, or poorly led.

Ret_25X

being over tasked or under strength are both indicators of poor leadership.

Staff officers running the staff 14 hours a day is never indicated UNLESS you are in combat. NOTHING during garrison mandates 14 hour days.

If you are working your org 14 hours a day, I guarantee it is 4 hours of work and 10 hours of waiting for COL or SGM Toxicity to pull his head out of 4th point.

timactual

“Doing it routinely? Would have told me my superiors didn’t give a damn,”

Still laughing. I thought that stuff was supposed to end with the advent of the volunteer, “professional” Army.

OWB

Yes, indeed, we have all worked 14-hour days. You do what is necessary to complete the mission. As written, it sounds like he demanded it when it wasn’t needed just because he wanted to do it. Sure, there are plenty of legitimate reasons for 14-hour days, but not so much during normal operations.

Anonymous

Standard conventional wisdom for the pigheaded of his age group: Be a jerk because you can– it’s good to be the king!

Anonymous

Having everyone kept busy for 14-hour days sucks. The family-is-for-wimps attitude sucks. Reminds of this guy (Colonel Tavington) for some reason:

Stacy0311

Yeah COVID destroyed the “you need to be in the office to be productive” BS.

Tele-worked from March to September. Came in to physically conduct training/exercises for deploying units. Otherwise, fire up the laptop, log in to the VPN and work from home. Deadlines were still made, mission was accomplished.

You know what didn’t happen? A lot of pointless Death by PowerPoint meetings, synchs, huddles and other time wasters.

And I wasn’t getting a haircut every week and shaving every day!

Anonymous

No pointless meetings/PowerPoint? The horror, the horror!

SFC D

So my “PowerPoint Ranger” Tab is essentially obsolete?

Anonymous

They’ll never take my graphics slush file of cool dancing baloney!

Andy11M

Anyone know what’s going on with the Army’s BN commander/ CSM selection process that was supposed to weed out “toxic” leaders like this? Did it get shelved or did he slip through?

penguinman000

I suspect the Army is suffering from the same silliness the Navy (and to a lesser extent the USMC) are subject to.

The believe that civilian business practices apply broadly to a war fighting organization. They have been preaching for years (since the early 90s at least) things like TQL, Sigma 6, etc..

These are things that do apply in broad strokes to a war fighting organization. They’ve taught officers and NCOs to act like those in the business sector. You know, the same people who lie, cheat and steal on a regular basis.

They have taken principles and lionized “leaders” whose messages/principles don’t translate to the mission and then combine it with the “zero defect” mentality. Then they wonder why they have poor results, disgruntled troops and toxic leadership? SMDH.

They are measuring and selecting for the wrong things.

Want to find leadership lessons? Look to our long lineage of exceptional war fighters.

penguinman000

Correction: These are things that do NOT apply in broad strokes to war fighting organizations.

Prior Service

The new command selection screening process is just coming on line now. Only the newest BM CDRs came through it and I’m not sure if any BDE CDRS have at all. If this guy was already done with group command, he was selected for that position at least three years ago. Not saying the new process is or is not effective, but not relevant to this guy.

JustALurkinAround

^^^THIS!!! FUCKING THIS!!!^^^

I make this same claim at work. In fact, I brought it up at our last monthly “sensing session” or whatever they are calling these monthly things that are the result of the Ft. Hood report.

The Army specifically, and DoD in general, seem to think that adopting business jargon suddenly makes them efficient or “smart”, while forgetting the entire entity is bureaucratic by design. Businesses are designed to make money by producing things others want. Many of these businesses are responsible to their shareholders to maximize profits. Fittingly, inefficiencies and bloat can be quickly eliminated once identified. This is polar to the way a bureaucracy operates.

The goal of business is to make money. The goal of a bureaucracy is to sustain itself and expand whenever possible.

Lean-Six, Best Practices, and Good/Better/Best is fucking meaningless jargon.

I included a cleaner version of this sentiment on my online retirement survey.

11B-Mailclerk

Say, didn’t McNamara and his posse of sub-geniuses bring “business wisdom” to the US military in the 60s?

Didn’t work so well then either. Hm.

The problem with our armed forces is a lack of Victory and leadership that shuns Victory-thinking.

It’s not a business, not “fair” , not social developing, not a social ladder, not humanitarian.

It’s purpose is preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution through -Victory in war-

Nothing else, ever.

Nothing else. -ever-

penguinman000

I think those who live inside the beltway have a tendency to forget what it is we do at the end of the day.

Ret_25X

well…I believe this is what I said in the other thread. This situation was no surprise, just ignored by all concerned.

What a waste.

HMCS(FMF) ret

You’re right…

Slow Joe

Come on dude. The Army is going to cover for any mofo that makes it to O6 and beyond.

Are you really going to tell me you never came across people like this, that said family was a priority in our formation, but asked for 16 hour work days and 5-days ranges every week?

Plezz Nicole.

Anonymous

I’m just surprised it’s not Fort Hood.

OWB

Yep. Fully expected the same.

Skippy

No surprise here

Veritas Omnia Vincit

And if the Army had done something based on those complaints without any violence attached to it people would be complaining that the poor man was being defamed by crybaby subordinates… Making folks work 14 hour days, oh my what a terrible thing…try starting a fucking business and get back to me on the number of hours you’re working…if the business is a success you and I probably know 14 hour days are sort of a minimum for a long time, along with a second mortgage now and again to cover payroll when work gets slow for whatever reason… The truth of this is simple, our system is not at all constructed to stop people before they do something ruinous. It’s a primarily reactive system as a more pro-active system might involve violating all manner of Constitutional protections. The military is not designed or equipped to handle these sorts of things when it’s a higher level individual…they can ruin an enlisted trooper over a DUI but can’t seem to keep the officer corps from fucking subordinates and treating people like shit… If this was the first such story surprised reactions would be expected. Sadly, this is nothing new at all except he’s SF and perhaps in our heads we expect SF to be better than the rest of us….but clearly the news of late has been less than flattering to the SF aspect of the military, with this guy and the young woman negligently discharging a firearm and the bowling… Read more »

Ret_25X

This is why toxicity is so hard to deal with and the consequences so hard to prevent.

The line between heading for a fall and being hard charging is thin and hard to define in most cases.

However, there is no mystery involved in seeing that a leader demanding 12-14 hour days in garrison is out of his/her mind and the Sergeant Major needs to have a discussion with the CoS yesterday.

But, too many times it is allowed to fester and when the inevitable happens we ask the same question every time…how did we miss this one?

Well, here’s the answer; Every GO failed their Troop Leading Procedures from Jump. They failed to set the work plan, sleep plan, and task parameters. They failed to check, recheck, and check again.

And because the GO and CSM don’t do it, no one does it.

And that is just how simple this problem is.

A Terminal Lance Coolie

Ret 25X has the nail on the head. The gotta-work-hard mentality when starting a new business is accurate. Its mandatory if you want the business to take off. Theres no way around it when you’re the manager, employee, accountant, and whatever else needs doing. That said, theres no reason to be at work 14 hours a day, 5 days a week in garrison. When I was in, back in 06, a normal day was 0600-1600, sometimes 1700. Usually if we were there late it was for the terrible reason that someone else was working. If we’ve finished the plan of the day, why are we still here? You gotta know WHEN to work hard, when the long hours are needed. Theres no benefit to keeping someone 14 hours a day, 5 days a week, if the mission doesn’t call for it. Its especially galling that the Colonel then shit on his soldier for questioning if the mission demanded it, albeit politely by asking for time with his family, something the military has “had a focus on” since I was in back in ’06, and they were talking about the Corps dwell-to- deployment ratio being unsustainable. Weeding out the heading for a fall guys from the hard chargers requires proactive leadership. You can’t just say they accomplished mission, so they’re fine. You have to actually check in on your leadership every so often, tour their workspaces, preferably without them knowing you’re about. Works wonders for gauging the morale and mentality of… Read more »

Anonymous

Yup, 101st ABN HQ did the same when they deployed to Afghanistan in 2013. Came in hard– folk were going to work 18-hour days and have meetings at 2000- 2100, hooah! Kept that up for about a month and half, then everybody evolved a decided weekend and shorter days for some reason.

Mustang Major

I bet that two factors are at play with Col. Ray’s situation: 1.) Possibly a jerk when dealing with others. 2.) Family stress, perhaps rooted in financial concerns.

The combination of the two caused him to blow a head gasket and get arrested.

My former employer commissioned a nation-wide study that revealed financial concerns were the number one cause of stress for single adults and families. (They ended up donating money to the American Heart Assn., as stress is a significant cause of heart disease.)

I don’t know the specifics of Col. Ray’s situation, but reading the first article, it sounded like he had an older daughter, in addition to his children living at home. He could have had a divorce, alimony, child support on top of his current financial obligations. Add the pressure cooker of his job, and he could have blown his top in a way that he instantly regretted.

Anonymous

Just wait, in 6 months he’ll be telling everyone it was like this:

timactual

“… The pace was brisk and about two-thirds fell out.”

So this 47 yr. old staff officer ran the rest of the (younger) staff into the ground, eh? Am I supposed to be outraged at Col. Ray for this? Sorry.

Andy11M

The fact that he could take his staff on a run and grind 2/3 of them into the ground doesn’t prove anything other than the fact that the Col has great cardio/stamina and he has a problem. Taking the people you are supposed to be mentoring out and abusing them to breaking is just shit “leadership” that needs to be called out.

timactual

” Taking the people you are supposed to be mentoring out and abusing them to breaking…”

LOL.
I wonder what my NCOs, DIs, and officers would have reacted to that description of their jobs. I was only enlisted swine, but somehow I thought there was a bit more to it.