A decorated Army captain from Ankeny has been relieved of command after his exchange of sexually explicit emails with former Des Moines schools superintendent Nancy Sebring, an Army official said Saturday. Army Capt. John Hintz, 42, is under investigation by the Army’s recruiting division, said John Largent, an Army spokesman. Hintz this year started a two-year stint as the Army’s top recruiting officer in the Des Moines area. Largent said the Army is investigating whether Hintz sent any explicit emails from his military email account, but told The Des Moines Register he couldn’t provide basic details about the case because the investigation is continuing. “This type of conduct doesn’t uphold Army values and what the Army stands for,” Largent told the Army Times, which first reported the story Saturday morning. Army Times and The Des Moines Register are owned by Gannett Co. Inc. Among the details Largent said he couldn’t comment on: what alleged violations are being investigated, when the investigation would be completed, what actions might be taken after the investigation is completed, and whether Hintz requested to be relieved of command. “The U.S. Army takes all of the allegations seriously. That’s why the investigation is going on, to look into details and to find out what the exact truth is about everything,” Largent told the Register. Hintz, who is married with two children, exchanged emails with Sebring in April and May discussing the six-week affair. Sebring, 57, is married but says she has lived a separate life from her husband, who lives in Colorado. That’s where Sebring previously lived and worked. The personal correspondence came to light following public records requests by the Register and Omaha World-Herald seeking information about Sebring’s sudden exit from the Des Moines district in May. She had accepted an offer to become leader of Omaha’s public schools, but then resigned from the Des Moines job earlier than scheduled. Des Moines district staff fulfilling the public records requests discovered the explicit emails, which Sebring sent using district equipment and a district email account. Board members confronted Sebring, who immediately offered to resign. On June 2, the day after the Register first reported that sexually explicit emails had prompted Sebring’s early departure, she also resigned from her new job in Omaha. Hintz told the Register on Saturday that he could not comment because of the Army’s investigation. Sebring did not respond Saturday to a request for comment. Register had not published name The Register reviewed 115 emails that were released June 22 in response to its public records request. Of those, 26 were sexually explicit and another 17 included references to sex acts or sexually explicit photos. But none of the sexually explicit emails indicated Hintz had used his government computer or his Army email address in corresponding with Sebring. Hintz first met Sebring through his work as a recruiter. His initial emails to Sebring were sent from his military account. They discussed such matters as a school fitness event Hintz helped organize. In addition to two assemblies, Hintz talked with one Des Moines high school class about his experiences in the Army, according to the emails. In April, Hintz switched from using his military account to a private account. Later emails he sent that were sexually explicit were sent from the private account. The Register previously had chosen not to disclose Hintz’s name because, unlike Sebring, the records released to the public show he did not use a taxpayer-funded email account to send and receive the explicit emails, said Rick Green, Register editor and vice president of news. Green said Hintz’s name is now being published because of the actions taken against him by the Army. “At the time of our June 22 review of those emails, there was no indication that explicit emails sent or received by Capt. Hintz came from a taxpayer-owned email system or a U.S. Army computer. It was not immediately apparent that he violated specific military technology regulations. That was why the Register did not identify him in our stories. However, the action taken by the Army is news. The fact that he was relieved of his post as the Army’s top recruiting officer in the Des Moines area cannot be ignored.” Combat veteran has distinguished record Hintz has served in the Army for 14 years. He has received the Army Commendation Medal with special recognition for valor, and he told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that he has received three Purple Hearts. In May, he was one of 14 active Army officers awarded the General MacArthur Leadership Award, given annually to those who epitomize the ideals of duty, honor and country. Nominees must exhibit exceptional leadership, influence, job performance, values and interpersonal skills, according to Army criteria. Hintz grew up in Des Moines and Newton and graduated from Forest City High School. He earned a degree from Wartburg College in Waverly. Hintz saw extensive combat in Afghanistan two years ago. He commanded more than 100 troops posted at a tiny base in the mountains near the turbulent Pakistan border. Over a three-month period, 254 insurgent rockets hit Hintz’s outpost. His soldiers were awarded 40 Purple Hearts for combat injuries from January to September 2010. His company, which belonged to the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, was featured on “60 Minutes.” A CBS crew led by correspondent Lara Logan lived with him and his soldiers for two weeks and followed them on missions, including during heavy firefights with insurgents. As a recruiter, Hintz has said he routinely showed the “60 Minutes” piece to high school students, because they should know what they might face if they join the military. “You’ve got to be up front and tell them the truth,” he told the Register in January. Hintz and Sebring met in early 2012 at an Iowa Urban Education Network meeting, according to emails. This spring, they both participated in activities associated with iWeek, a four-day innovation event on the Des Moines Area Community College campus. Sebring and Hintz began to exchange emails shortly after the event, the first message being sent March 13. The pair’s relationship appeared to quickly turn personal after that. In one email, Sebring wrote that she was “barely acquainted” with Hintz at the time of the DMACC events, held March 5-8. The pair initially addressed one another as “Dr. Sebring” and “Captain Hintz,” but by March 26 the couple had started exchanging sexually explicit emails. Emails in coming weeks were sent at all hours of the day and night. Hintz told Sebring in an April 24 email about previous affairs. “This is not my first relationship like this … I have had three of these in ten years,” he wrote. Sebring, at least twice in emails, suggested that Hintz could work as an Omaha school administrator. The pair continued to collaborate on professional endeavors during the course of the affair. Hintz served as a guest speaker at Health & Fitness Expos held at Lincoln and East high schools on April 12 and 13, respectively. Sebring also encouraged him to visit a Hoover High School journalism class. School officials say Hintz was not paid with district funds for the appearances. Military career could be at risk Hintz’s career could be in jeopardy if a reprimand is placed on his permanent record, said Stephen Kelly, a Massachusetts lawyer who specializes in defending members of the armed forces. For an officer, he said, such an action “can kill a career.” Kelly spoke to the Register in general terms about military discipline, before the Army disclosed that Hintz had been relieved of his command. Military service members can be court-martialed for committing adultery, but prosecutions are rare unless there are factors that make it a more serious offense, Kelly said. Kelly, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and judge advocate general, said officers are more likely than enlisted people to face prosecution for infractions such as adultery, because they are supposed to set examples of good behavior. Using official military email to further an affair also could be punishable, Kelly said. “The purpose of government email is government business,” he said. “You’re not allowed to use it for other purposes,” and dissemination of sexually explicit content could be a big problem. In one email exchange, Hintz and Sebring discussed the ramifications of being caught. Hintz cautioned Sebring to be careful about not revealing their relationship. “You are a public figure … and I’m in the military. I will ensure you that our close friendship remains a quiet … close friendship,” he wrote on April 24. “This means that every CQtest,CQ email, picture … anything will be gone the minute I am done reading it.”
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