Three Anecdotes about Robert Caslen

Robert Caslen is a retired United States Army Officer. He retired from the military as a three-star general in 2018 and became the president of the University of South Carolina in 2019.

  1. In 2006, Caslen was one of several high-ranking military officials who appeared in a video for the evangelical organization, Christian Embassy. The evangelical group filmed the appearances of Caslen and others in the Pentagon and in uniform.

A subsequent Department of Defense investigation into the incident found,

However, we substantiated the allegation with regard to the military officers. The seven officers participated in interviews with Christian Embassy, excerpts of which were also included in the promotional video. The officers were filmed during the duty day, in uniform with rank clearly displayed, in official and often identifiable Pentagon locations. Their remarks conferred approval of and support to Christian Embassy, and the remarks of some officers implied they spoke for a group of senior military leaders rather than just for themselves. None of the officers sought or received approval to participate in the interview in an official capacity or in uniform. The overall circumstances of the interviews emphasized the speakers’ military status and affiliation and implied they were acting within the scope of their official positions as DoD spokespersons. Based on these circumstances, we concluded the officers violated JER Sections 2635.702(b), “Appearance of governmental sanction,” and 3-300.a. on personal participation in non-Federal entities; DoD Directive (DoDD) 1334.1, “Wearing of the Uniform”; and Army and Air Force uniform standards.

Although the report recommended “appropriate corrective action,” it appears there were never any formal actions for this violation.

The full video is available on YouTube.

Caslen’s appearance starts at 3:59.

I’ll see a brother in the Lord from these Flag Fellowship groups, and I immediately feel like I’m being held accountable – because we’re the aroma of Jesus Christ.

2. Caslen has repeatedly told a story about drowning a deer to death with his bare hands and likening it to combat. Caslen retold the story to The Leadership Podcast in its April 24, 2019 episode. Task & Purposes summarizes the podcast story,

The deer was 100 yards out, well in range of his iron-sighted .30-30 rifle. The deer had its back to Caslen, and all he could see was the deer’s horns and its rear end.

Then something strange happened. Caslen — who served as a special forces soldier in the Army Rangers — missed.

“It’s because I was a bad shot,” Caslen told The Leadership Podcast.

The buck didn’t run, giving Caslen a chance to fire again. This time, the bullet found its mark.

“I knew I hit him because he jumped straight up,” Caslen said.

The deer ran and Caslen began tracking it, taking the high ground, and he noticed the deer was sprinting for the lake.

“I was ready to shoot him, but unfortunately, on the other side of the lake there was a guy on a tractor mowing the grass out there,” Caslen said on the podcast. “He was down-range of where I was going to shoot so I didn’t shoot.”

The deer then jumped in the lake and tried to swim across, but stopped halfway and returned to the shore. Caslen resumed tracking the deer and got within 10 feet of it, where it was lying on the river bank. Caslen took another shot and missed.

Then, “he came flying out of the lake right at me, similar to a bull in a bull run,” Caslen said on the podcast. “As he came flying at me, I couldn’t even shoot or anything. I just dropped my gun. I kind of stepped to the side like a bullfighter and I grabbed him around his neck. I had him in a choke hold, so I wrestled him to the ground.”

Caslen dragged the bucking deer to the nearby Lake Frederick and wrestled with it, jamming its head into the water but it kept fighting. After bucking Caslen three or four times, the deer finally stopped fighting.

When a host from the Leadership Podcast asked Caslen what lesson he learned from the experience, he said it was being persistent and persevering even in the “cruicible of combat.”

“This combat was wrestling a deer, but it could have been anything,” Caslen said.

3. On July 19, 2019, Caslen was named the president of the University of South Carolina. There was significant opposition to Caslen’s selection among students and faculty because of South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster’s intervention in the selection process.

Caslen resigned on May 12, 2021, after less than two years in the job. During a May 8, 2021 graduation speech, Caslen ended his speech with,

It’s now my honor and privilege to officially congratulate you as the newest alumni from the University of California.

The moment was captured on video.

As stupid as that is, Caslen probably wouldn’t have resigned over this speech if he also hadn’t plagiarized portions of his commencement speeches on May 7 and May 8.

According to a report in The Post and Courier,

The wording in question — lasting some two paragraphs in length — was originally made by retired U.S. Navy four-star Adm. William McRaven during a 2014 commencement at the University of Texas.

. . .

In a statement released by USC, Caslen said, “I am truly sorry. During my remarks in our weekend commencement ceremonies, I shared a well-known quote from Admiral William McRaven and failed to cite him as its original author and speaker.

“I take full responsibility for this oversight,” Caslen continued. “I sincerely apologize to Admiral McRaven, someone I know and respect, our graduates, their families and the entire university community for not leading by example.”

Caslen may have even survived those admissions of plagiarism, but apparently, it wasn’t his first time. The day after his May 12, 2021 resignation, it was reported that Caslen had likely been confronted with several other instances where he plagiarized materials in speeches, including his farewell address to West Point.

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