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Commander tied to scout sniper scandal wins promotion

Jan. 19, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Col. Dixon Promotion
Lt. Col. Christopher G. Dixon is promoted to the rank of colonel by Brig. Gen. James W. Lukeman, commanding general, 2nd Marine Division, and Dixon's wife, Erin, at Camp Lejeune, N.C., on Jan. 3. (Lance Cpl. David McKenzie / Marine Corps)
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A senior Marine officer whose career was stalled for two years amid a high-profile scandal involving scout snipers in his unit has finally been promoted and assigned to a top-level school, Marine officials confirmed this week.

Col. Christopher Dixon, former battalion commander of Camp Lejeune’s 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, pinned on his new rank Jan. 3, with his date of rank and commensurate pay and allowances backdated to Feb. 1, 2013, said Col. Sean Gibson, a Marine spokesman. He will attend the Naval War College in the spring.

Dixon’s career had been in limbo since January 2012, when a video appeared on YouTube showing scout snipers attached to his battalion urinating on Taliban corpses during a 2011 deployment to Afghanistan.

In a 2013 email reviewed by Marine Corps Times, Gen. John Paxton, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said then-Lt. Col. Dixon “will not be promoted until all cases tied to the video are resolved.” Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos wanted to ensure “the Corps as an institution has definitive proof that [Dixon] was not implicated in any manner prior to promotion,” Paxton wrote.

The eighth and final Marine to face punitive action in the wake of the urination video was Capt. James Clement, former executive officer of the battalion’s Kilo Company. During an administrative board of inquiry in October, it was recommended Clement be separated from the service with an honorable discharge for allegedly failing to supervise his Marines. Previously, three snipers pleaded guilty at courts-martial, each losing a rank, while four others accepted nonjudicial punishments.

Dixon was never accused of wrongdoing in connection with the incident, however.

Gibson said that after the cases were completed, Dixon was allowed to submit materials in support of his promotion to Amos, who recommended to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that the promotion be approved.

Amos has come under fire by whistleblowers and attorneys for his aggressive involvement with the sniper cases. A three-star general alleged that Amos removed him as the authority overseeing the cases because he refused to promise that the Marines in the video would be kicked out of the Corps.

A complaint filed with the Defense Department Inspector General’s Office also alleged favoritism in the treatment of those tied to the case: while Dixon’s career remained stalled as the cases progressed, the battalion’s executive officer, then-Maj. James B. Conway, son of former Commandant Gen. James T. Conway, received a promotion.

The IG found late last year that there was no proof of favoritism in the case, according to Marine officials with knowledge of the situation.

Reached by email, Dixon declined to comment on his promotion.

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