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Hundreds of soldiers found unfit for posts

WASHINGTON — The Army removed 588 soldiers from sensitive jobs such as sexual assault counselors and recruiters after finding they had committed infractions such as sexual assault, child abuse, and drunken driving, officials said Wednesday.

The move resulted from orders by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last year that all the services review the qualifications of people holding those jobs as part of an effort to stem a rising number of sexual assaults in the military.

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The Army said it reviewed the qualifications and records of 20,000 soldiers and found 588 unsuitable for their jobs as recruiters, drill sergeants, training school instructors, and staff of sexual assault prevention and response programs. It was unclear whether they were reassigned or kicked out of the service altogether and precisely when the review was completed. It also was unclear whether the infractions had happened during their military service or before.

‘‘We will continue working to better ensure we select the very best people for these posts and that the chain of command knows what is expected of them and how important this work is to the Army,’’ Colonel David Patterson, an Army spokesman, said in a statement.

The Navy looked at some 11,000 employees and found five unqualified. The Air Force and Marine Corps did not respond to requests for information about their reviews. But USA Today, which first reported the results of the reviews, said the Air Force and Marines found no one to disqualify.

It was unclear why the other service branches reported so few problems, but Pentagon officials said the Army did a more stringent review, going beyond what Hagel had ordered. It scrutinized not only its recruiting and sex assault response and prevention staffs, but also people in other ‘‘positions of trust.’’

It also scoured records for a broader range of potentially problematic behaviors.

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