Update on Lackland AFB Sex Scandal:
Air Force Removes Lackland Commander over Sex Scandal
The fallout from a sex scandal at Lackland AFB in Texas widened on August 10, 2012 when the military ousted the basic training unit's commander, Col. Glenn Palmer. Investigators say that dozens of female recruits were sexually assaulted or harassed by their male instructors.
The sacked commander had arrived at the base in 2011 and was in charge when allegations naming more than a dozen instructors began to mount. Military prosecutors investigated more than a dozen instructors and charged six with crimes ranging from rape to adultery. Officials said that Palmer was not facing any criminal charges but that his new duty assignment had not been decided.
Every Air Force recruit reports to Lackland AFB for eight weeks of basic training. About 35,000 airmen graduated each year and the misdeeds in the ranks of the nearly 500 instructors have reverberated all the way to Washington.
Obama's pick for Air Force Chief of Staff was held up while Congress pressed the service for answers about the widening scandal at Lackland.
The most serious allegation involved an instructor, Staff Sgt Luis Walker, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison last month after being convicted of raping one recruit and sexually assaulting several others.
As the allegations have piled up at Lackland, victims of sexual assault in the military have pressed for Congressional investigations and hearings.
(based on excerpts from the Associated Press)
“You’re Being Yelled At 24-7, Where You’re Terrified Of Everybody Around You”
A Growing Air Force Sex-Abuse Scandal:
“Wrongdoing Ranging From Rape To Improper Sexual Relations With A Trainee”
“About One-Quarter Of The Instructors In The 331st Training Squadron Have Either Been Charged With Crimes Or Are Under Investigation For Sexual Misconduct”
June 28, 2012
By Craig Whitlock, The Washington Post
The Air Force is investigating a growing sexual-misconduct scandal in its basic-training operations, with a dozen male boot-camp instructors under suspicion of assaulting, harassing or having sex with female recruits.
The case originated with a single complaint filed a year ago by a woman at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
It has snowballed into potentially the worst sex scandal in the U.S. military since 1996, when 12 male soldiers were charged with abusing female recruits and trainees at the Army’s Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
The Air Force investigation centers on a unit of boot-camp instructors at Lackland, near San Antonio, where 36,000 recruits undergo basic training each year.
About one-quarter of the instructors in the 331st Training Squadron have either been charged with crimes or are under investigation for sexual misconduct. One trainer has been charged with raping or sexually assaulting 10 recruits.
Senior Air Force officials said they have found problems in other units as well, prompting them to open multiple investigations to determine the extent to which female recruits face harassment and whether the Air Force’s selection process for male instructors is fundamentally flawed.
Last week, the Air Force relieved the commander of the 331st Training Squadron, Lt. Col. Michael Paquette, citing “an unacceptable level of misconduct” by members of his unit.
Last year, about 3,200 incidents of sexual assault were reported or investigated by the armed services — a fraction of the estimated 19,000 cases that took place, according to Defense Department figures.
The Air Force has recently come under pressure from lawmakers to provide a fuller accounting of what happened at Lackland.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a leading critic of the military’s record on sexual assault, has called on the House Armed Services Committee to hold hearings as it did in the Aberdeen scandal.
“This scandal is exploding at Lackland, and it is frighteningly similar to what happened at Aberdeen,” Speier said in a telephone interview.
Speier said the military needs to overhaul its judicial system so that sexual-assault cases are investigated and prosecuted outside the normal chain of command to remove the incentive for commanders to cover up incidents that could make them look bad.
At Lackland, the Air Force has filed charges against six instructors, with alleged wrongdoing ranging from rape to improper sexual relations with a trainee.
Investigations into six other instructors are pending.
Air Force officials said that most of the misconduct occurred during basic training but that in some cases, instructors engaged in improper sexual relations with recruits after they had moved on to other training programs.
All told, the Air Force has identified 31 victims, each of whom remains in the service.
[T]he Air Force general in charge of training, said the problems at Lackland surfaced in June 2011 when a female recruit reported being sexually harassed. Four months later, he said, three instructors in the 331st Training Squadron reported that misconduct among their fellow trainers was more widespread.
Advocacy groups said one of the biggest obstacles to preventing sexual abuse in the military is a culture of silence.
“For every instructor that assaults a recruit, there are usually dozens of others who have known about the problem,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine officer and executive director of the Service Women’s Action Network.
Bhagwati called boot camp “a target-rich environment” for sexual abuse because instructors wield total authority over raw recruits.
“It’s the kind of environment where you’re being yelled at 24-7, where you’re terrified of everybody around you,” she said.
“How are you supposed to ask for help if you’re the victim of sexual assault?”