Retired Army colonel could lose Special Forces tab for domestic violence

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The military is seeking to revoke the Special Forces tab of a retired colonel who was arrested in 2020 for domestic violence, Task & Purpose has learned.

The 1st Special Forces Command has taken steps to revoke retired Col. Owen Ray’s tab, according to a US Army Special Operations Command official. Ray, the former commander of the 1st Special Forces Group, was arrested and charged with domestic violence and assault in 2020 after a two-hour standoff with police. At the time of his arrest, Ray was I Corps Chief of Staff at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. He was eventually approved for an honorable discharge in 2021 and retired.

The removal of his Special Forces tab is an effort to make it clear that Ray’s actions “do not represent the Special Forces community or the high standards we expect from the community,” the official said. The action has been sent to Ray and his attorneys, who have until the end of next week to submit a rebuttal.

Jared Ausserer, an attorney who represents Ray on his civil criminal charges but does not represent him on his tab dismissal, confirmed that the military initiated the process. Efforts to reach Ray and his legal officers were unsuccessful.

Maj. Gen. E. John Deedrick, Jr. (center), 1st Special Forces Command Commanding General Col. Owen G. Ray (left), and Col. Guillaume N. Beaurpere march by 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) as they ‘troop the line’ during the 1st SFG(A) change of command ceremony at Joint Base Lewis McChord, July 11. (US Army/Spc. Jonathan Rivera-Collazo)

Ray was arrested in the early morning hours of December 27, 2020, after allegedly threatening his wife with a handgun in their home. According to charging documents first reported by the Tacoma News Tribune, he and his wife were arguing when she hid from him in their youngest child’s bedroom. She heard him say “Let’s do it”, according to the News Tribune, before going to the garage “where he stored his weapons”.

He reportedly returned to their child’s room and became “furious when she called the police”. The indictments said Ray pointed a gun at his wife and kicked her “again and again with his boots in the face and chest.”

“Both children had woken up and were screaming, ‘Don’t kill mum, don’t shoot us,'” the indictments read, according to the News Tribune.

Ray “refused to comply” with orders from officers when they arrived at the home and “refused to disarm or surrender” as his family was evacuated. He eventually surrendered and was taken into custody two hours after police arrived. He was charged with two counts of second-degree assault with a firearm, two counts of criminal harassment, first-degree kidnapping and reckless endangerment.

Complaints about Ray’s behavior predate the 2020 incident. A complaint from the Inspector General from his time as 1st Special Forces Group Commander accused him of creating a “toxic command climate” and to “create expectations that everyone should act like him”.

“He exacerbates that expectation by shaming people in public and berating them,” said a statement included in the IG complaint, according to Military Times. “Furthermore, he regularly overreacts to little information and has emotional outbursts.”

In an op-ed in The Cipher Brief last November — a national security-focused outlet, according to his website — Ray pointed to deteriorating mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder as reasons for the events of December 2020. He said he “suffered in the dark and I could no longer maintain the expectations of warrior, leader and family. He was “devastated” and “confused” after his arrest, he wrote, adding that he had been “vilified by the media”.

Once Ray and his attorneys decide to file a rebuttal to his tab dismissal, if they choose to do so, the final recommendation will be sent to Maj. Gen. Thomas Drew, Commander of Army Human Resources Command. , for a final decision.

The Special Forces tab “means something to people,” the Army Special Operations Command official said. “They are using tab revocation as a tool to police the profession within the Special Operations Forces community.”

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