WASHINGTON (AP) _ One of the women who has accused the Army's top enlisted man of sex harassment had complained about working on his staff and felt he was being too tough on her, a military hearing was told Tuesday.

Retired Sgt. Maj. Robert Dare also testified that he found it difficult to imagine that Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney was a ``sexual predator,'' as his accusers have suggested.

Dare's testimony came in the fourth week of a hearing at Washington's Fort McNair that will determine whether McKinney will be court-martialed on sex harassment and sex assault charges. McKinney has denied allegations by four women that he sexually harassed them.

Dare said one of the four accusers, retired Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster, asked him in 1995 to talk to McKinney ``to ask him to not be so tough on her.''

Dare said McKinney told him Hoster's work did not meet his standards. Dare said Hoster later told him she believed McKinney had ``taken out on her'' his unhappiness over his son's recent death.

Hoster has accused McKinney of making sexual overtures to her in a hotel room during a business trip to Hawaii in April 1996. Dare said that he saw Hoster later that year but that she mentioned no problems then.

Retired Gen. David Maddox, who chose McKinney as senior enlisted man for a division Europe in 1990, called him ``one of the very best'' command sergeant majors.

Maddox said he did not witness any of the alleged harassment incidents, and said McKinney treated male and female soldiers equally.

He said that while he and McKinney were in Germany, a survey showed female soldiers were being harassed but didn't report it because they feared they might not get a fair hearing. ``He and I talked about that a lot ... to try to turn it around,'' Maddox said.

But Maddox said he did not believe female soldiers would be reluctant to level such charges against high-ranking personnel. Instead, he said, ``I think the higher you are the more vulnerable you are to ensuring that someone will go after you.''

``If in fact (McKinney) did what he is accused of I would be shocked,'' Maddox said. ``Have I ever been shocked by someone who did something I didn't expect? Yes.''

Dare, who served as a fellow command sergeant major with McKinney in Germany, also attended a 1994 convention here at which Sgt. Christine Fetrow alleges McKinney tried to get her to go to his hotel room.

Dare said that he was with McKinney when Fetrow and others joined them in a hotel bar and that he saw no inappropriate conversation between them. Fetrow has said McKinney left the table, beckoned her to join him and asked her to go to his room. Dare said he didn't believe McKinney left the table while Fetrow was with the group.

Dare said he has known McKinney since 1990 and considers him a ``positive role model'' who was ``constantly concerned about soldiers' well-being and welfare.''

McKinney's lawyer, Charles Gittins, asked, ``What opinion, if any, do you have that Sergeant Major McKinney might be a sexual predator who hits on women?''

``It would be the furthest thing that I could possibly imagine,'' Dare said. ``It's one of those things where you're going to have to prove it to me.''

Further testimony was postponed until Thursday after one of McKinney's lawyers injured himself in a fall.