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Marine Corps fires commander and sergeant major of Hawaii infantry battalion

"There was an investigation, prompted by anonymous Inspector General (IG) complaints, that informed this decision."
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Benjamin Wagner and Jayson Clifton
Lt. Col. Benjamin Wagner (left) and Sgt. Maj. Jayson Clifton (right) were relieved of command on March 31. (U.S. Marine Corps)

The battalion commander and command sergeant major for 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment have been relieved of command following an investigation, Marine Corps officials said. 

Lt. Col. Benjamin Wagner, the battalion commander of the Hawaii-based infantry unit was fired along with Sgt. Maj. Jayson Clifton, the unit’s top enlisted leader, the Marine Corps confirmed in a statement. They were removed on March 31 “due to a loss of trust and confidence,” though the precise reason remains unclear.

“There was an investigation, prompted by anonymous Inspector General (IG) complaints, that informed this decision,” said Maj. Kurt Stahl, a Marine Corps spokesman.

“They were relieved due to a loss of trust and confidence in their abilities to continue leading in their assigned duties,” Stahl said. “The Marine Corps demands the highest standards of its leaders and takes accountability very seriously.”

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Wagner enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1995 and went on to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy in 2002 and then became an infantry officer, according to his official biography. He led a rifle platoon during the first battle of Fallujah in 2004 and later deployed to Now Zad in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, as a company commander with 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment from 2010 to 2011.

Prior to assuming command of the battalion in the summer of 2021, Wagner served as the section head for enlisted assignments in the Manpower Management Enlisted Assignments Branch of Manpower & Reserve Affairs.

His military awards include the Bronze Star Medal with “V” device, the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy & Marine Corps Commendation Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with silver star.

Clifton enlisted in the Marines in 1990; he initially became an infantry rifleman and then he graduated from the Marine Corps Security Forces School, Naval Station Mare Island, California, according to his official biography. 

He was honorably discharged in 1994 and then he enlisted back into the Marine Corps in 1998. Since then, Clifton has served as a ground radio repairer, a drill instructor, and a communications electronics maintenance chief and headquarters and service battery first sergeant.

Clifton deployed to Iraq from October 2007 to May 2008 and then again from April 2018 to April 2019, during which he served as the senior enlisted leader for Task Force Spartan. His military awards include the Meritorious Service Medal with one gold star, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with two gold stars, and the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal with three gold stars.

Lt. Col. Felix Guerra will replace Wagner as the battalion commander, and Sgt. Maj. Timothy Eldredge will take Clifton’s place as the battalion sergeant major.

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