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31st MEU CO steps down, inquiry into leadership style continues

May. 20, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Ssang Yong 14
Col. John Merna resigned as commander of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on Tuesday after an inquiry showed he created a hostile working environment. (Cpl. Lauren Whitney/Marine Corps)
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The commander of the Japan-based 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit resigned on Tuesday amid allegations that he created a hostile work environment within the unit’s headquarters element, leading to a loss of trust in his ability to lead the amphibious force.

Col. John Merna relinquished command of the 31st MEU after a preliminary inquiry and command climate survey substantiated allegations that he displayed a “pattern of intemperate behavior and language,” according to a Marine Corps news release. Merna, an infantry officer and combat veteran, assumed command of the MEU on June 1, 2012. Merna “recognized his incompatibility to continue leading the 31st MEU, accepted responsibility and accountability for his actions,” the release states.

Merna’s resignation was accepted by Lt. Gen. John Wissler, commanding general of III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa, Japan. Wissler lost confidence in Merna’s ability to effectively command the MEU, according to the release. Once a detailed review of the completed inquiry and associated command climate survey is completed, Wissler will determine whether additional appropriate actions are needed, the release states.

Lt. Col. G. Troy Roesti, the MEU’s executive officer, was appointed by Wissler to serve as interim commander, according to the release.

Merna is the second MEU commander to be relieved of his duties in the past year. In July, Col. James Christmas was relieved of command of the 22nd MEU by Maj. Gen. Raymond Fox, the commander of II MEF at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Fox loss confidence in Christmas’ ability to continue commanding the MEU.

“The Marine Corps holds all Marines, but especially commanders, responsible and accountable for their actions and the actions of those they lead, and is committed to maintaining complete accountability and responsibility by commanders in upholding the highest standards of conduct at every level,” the release states.

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