'A Betrayal': How a Decorated Army Officer Fell from Grace in a University ROTC Sex Scandal

A sign for Ohio State University
A sign for Ohio State University stands in Columbus, Ohio, May 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Angie Wang, File)

If anyone was the best pick to lead and train the next generation of Army officers at Ohio State University's Reserve Officers' Training Corps, or ROTC, it seemed that Lt. Col. Michael Kelvington was the one.

Kelvington, an infantry officer, has a thick combat resume with 14 deployments under his belt, including one as a company commander in the 82nd Airborne in 2012 when several soldiers were killed in the Zharay district of Afghanistan. Throughout his career, much of it spent in the 75th Ranger Regiment, he was awarded a Bronze Star with Valor and two Purple Hearts, among other accolades.

No one would question his combat bona fides -- increasingly rare experience as the post-9/11 wars recede into the past -- that brought him to the ROTC program at OSU. But everything came crashing down.

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A Military.com investigation found that Kelvington was fired from his role in April and formally replaced June 7 amid allegations of sexual misconduct. The misconduct allegedly involved at least three cadets, ranging from touching them inappropriately, making overt sexual references and gestures to having at least one prolonged sexual relationship. In some cases, those encounters or advances may have happened on campus and sometimes involved alcohol.

High school Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps programs have come under intense scrutiny over the past couple of years due to reports of widespread sexual misconduct by instructors with underage cadets. In 2022, a congressional report found that 66 instructors had been accused of sexual misconduct with high school students over the preceding five years. Congress passed legislation in December that provides more oversight of those programs for younger cadets, according to The New York Times.

    The full scope of the Army's misconduct investigation of Kelvington during his time heading the ROTC program at OSU was unclear.

    With the investigation ongoing, the Army's firing of Kelvington before completing it suggests the allegations are credible. Military.com's own investigation included reviews of emails, internal documents, text messages, police reports, photos and video and interviews with nearly two dozen cadets, school faculty and Army officials.

    "West Point grad, Ranger, infantry. ... Everyone wanted to be mentored by him because of his wealth of experience," one female cadet told Military.com on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media. "He really seemed to have our best interests in mind."

    Kelvington declined to be interviewed for this story or to issue a comment. It was unclear whether he had hired an attorney. He was replaced by Lt. Col. Steven Spiker, a human resources officer, who most recently led the ROTC program at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio.

    Some of Kelvington's credibility among the women in the program came from him disenrolling a male cadet amid allegations of sexual misconduct. For most cadets, Kelvington was their first exposure to the Army and was meant to set an example for what a leader is supposed to be.

    "This was a betrayal and really shook us," another female cadet told Military.com on the condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to talk to the press.

    U.S. Army Cadet Command became aware of Kelvington's conduct in December, after some initial allegations were made. But he continued pursuing a relationship with at least one cadet, sources with direct knowledge of the investigation told Military.com.

    It was unclear when other Ohio State ROTC staff became aware of the allegations, but some cadets allege staff were aware for weeks before incidents involving sexual harassment and assault were flagged to higher-ups in the Army.

    Kelvington was eventually given a "no-contact" order on Jan. 22, according to an Army spokesperson, in which he was ordered to stay away from cadets and cease communications. But he violated those campus police orders at least twice in February and March, according to law enforcement records reviewed by Military.com, though the specifics of the violations were unclear.

    "[Kelvington] has continually violated a no-contact order," one police report noted.

    Kelvington's alleged misconduct, now made public, echoes other similar issues faced by OSU's cadets. Three women currently in the program allege they were victims of sexual harassment or assault from male cadets, but have declined to report it.

    "I just ... didn't really know how that would be received," said a third female cadet, who alleges she was assaulted by a male cadet.

    "It was a confusing time, and who are we going to report things to? We all know what was going on at the time," she added, referring to Kelvington's investigation. Her alleged assault occurred at around the same time as his investigation started.

    Even after the investigation and his termination, Kelvington was inducted into the Ohio Military Hall of Fame in May for valor in combat in Afghanistan during his time as a platoon leader. He was also given a local car dealership award for military valor.

    Related: Head of Ohio State Army ROTC Suspended, Under Investigation for Allegedly Violating 'Stay Away' Order

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