Gene McKinney

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Gene C. McKinney
Gene McKinney.jpg
SMA Gene McKinney
Born (1950-11-03) November 3, 1950 (age 67)
Monticello, Florida, U.S.
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1968–1998
Rank Army-USA-OR-08b-2015.svg Master Sergeant
Commands held Demoted from Sergeant Major of the Army
Battles/wars Vietnam War
Awards Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal

Gene C. McKinney was the 10th Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA) of the United States, serving from July 1995 to October 1997. He was the first and to date the only African American to reach that rank in the United States Army. In 1998, he was court martialed on a variety of charges including sexual harassment and obstruction of justice. He was convicted of the obstruction of justice charge and demoted to the rank of master sergeant.

Early life and education[edit]

McKinney was born in Monticello, Florida, on November 3, 1950. He is one of five brothers, all of whom served in the U.S. Army. One served as an officer; one retired as a master sergeant; another served in the Vietnam War; and an identical twin, Command Sergeant Major James C. McKinney.


McKinney enlisted in the United States Army in August 1968, and completed OSUT as a Cavalryman at Fort Knox, Kentucky. From 1969 to 1970, he saw combat in the Vietnam War with the 173rd Airborne Brigade. In more than 28 years, he served in all noncommissioned officer leadership positions. He was command sergeant major of the United States Army Europe; 8th Infantry Division (Mechanized), Bad Kreuznach, Germany; 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division in Vilseck, Germany; 612th Quartermaster Battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; 1st Battalion, 58th Mechanized Infantry, 197th Infantry Brigade at Fort Benning, Georgia; 3rd Squadron, 12th Cavalry Regiment in Büdingen, Germany; 3rd and 4th Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas; and 2nd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Bamberg, Germany. He is a graduate of the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy, Class 31.

Sexual assault allegations and dismissal[edit]

In the fall of 1996, allegations of sexual misconduct by training cadre at Aberdeen Proving Ground and several other U.S. Army postings surfaced, and the U.S. Army instituted a substantial investigation, with a toll-free telephone hotline that received nearly 60,000 calls within a matter of weeks. The task force established by Secretary of the Army Togo D. West, Jr., to advise him about the situation included McKinney as the spokesman of the army enlisted soldiers.[1] In February 1997, McKinney was himself accused by a female former subordinate of improper advances.[2] The army suspended him from his duties in February 1997 while the charges were investigated; in May–October of that year, two command sergeants major—one McKinney's twin brother, James C. McKinney; the other, Command Sergeant Major Jerry T. Alley—took over his duties in rotation.[3] While McKinney was suspended from his duties as SMA, five more female soldiers accused him of similar improprieties.[4] In November 1997, the Article 32 investigating panel (U.S. military counterpart to a grand jury) completed its investigation and recommended charges for a court-martial. McKinney was thereupon permanently reassigned out of his billet and laterally redesignated to the rank of command sergeant major; his successor, SMA Robert E. Hall, was promptly installed.

McKinney was acquitted of all sexual harassment charges, but was convicted of obstruction of justice, and received a reduction in grade to master sergeant and a reprimand.[5] Though he retired as a master sergeant, his retirement pay was calculated using the pay rate he earned during his tenure as sergeant major of the army, in accordance with 10 USC § 1406(i)(1) That law was subsequently amended by 10 USC § 1406(i)(2)(A) to prevent a recurrence.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Felony vehicular charge[edit]

On October 25, 2010, McKinney allegedly hit a man with his car on purpose, and was charged with felony malicious wounding.[7] This occurred after McKinney was driving erratically with two slug passengers.[7] When the passengers exited the car, one of them attempted to take a photograph of McKinney's license plate, and claimed that McKinney drove his car into him.[7]

Based on the preliminary hearing in April 2011, a judge ruled that the evidence in the case was sufficient to proceed to trial.[8] He was indicted for malicious wounding (a felony) and reckless driving (a misdemeanor).[9]

McKinney would submit and the court accepted an Alford plea.[10] As a part of his plea agreement the felony charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. He was also sentenced to twelve months of incarceration, of which the judge suspended all but 10 days. McKinney was given credit for time served and only had to serve an additional 2 days.[11]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Combat Infantry Badge.svg Combat Infantryman Badge
United States Air Force Parachutist Badge.svg Basic Parachutist Badge
US Army Expert Marksmanship Qualification Badge-Generic.png Expert Marksmanship Badge
USA - 3rd Cavalry DUI.png 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment Distinctive Unit Insignia
Legion of Merit
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze Star Medal with oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Army Commendation Medal
Army Achievement Medal
Presidential Unit Citation
Meritorious Unit Commendation
Good Conduct Medal (9 awards)
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with one service star
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with one service star
Award numeral 4.png NCO Professional Education Ribbon with award numeral 4
Army Service Ribbon
Award numeral 5.png Overseas Service Ribbon with award numeral 5
Gallantry Cross Unit Citation.png Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Vietnam Campaign Medal


  1. ^ Mckinney visits Aberdeen to talk to troops, Army Newslink, 11/21/96.
  2. ^ Army's top enlisted man, Sgt. Maj. Gene C. McKinney, denies sexual harassment charge, Jet, JFeb 24, 1997
  3. ^ Schafer, Susanne (14 June 1997). "Army closes sex abuse hotline". TimesDaily. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Officer Adds Accusations In Army Sex Case". Gainesville Sun. 19 June 1997. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  5. ^ "Army Sex Case: Jury Gives Mckinney Reprimand, Demotion". The Vindicator. 17 March 1998. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Stout, David (12 May 1998). "Full Pension Is Backed for Former Top Soldier". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 April 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c Augenstein, Neal. "Fmr. Army Sgt. Maj. charged with malicious wounding". Retrieved 1 November 2010.  (link dead 2016-01-08)
  8. ^ Augenstein, Neal. "Judge: Probable cause in case against former Army Sgt. Maj". Retrieved 7 April 2011.  (link dead 2016-01-08)
  9. ^ Augenstein, Neal. "Former sgt. maj. of the Army indicted in slug incident". WTOP. Retrieved 21 April 2011.  (link dead 2016-01-08)
  10. ^ Augenstein, Neal. "Former Army Sgt. Maj. enters plea agreement". Retrieved 14 March 2012. 
  11. ^ "Gene McKinney spends weekend in jail after guilty plea". Retrieved 14 March 2012. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "".
The Sergeants Major of the Army, Daniel K. Elder, Center of Military History, United States Army Washington, D.C. 2003.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Richard A. Kidd
Sergeant Major of the Army
Succeeded by
Robert E. Hall