The US Air Force is investigating what could become the largest sex scandal within the US military in 16 years. Six sergeants from Lackland Air Force Training and Instruction Base in San Antonio (Texas) have been indicted on charges ranging from sexual harassment of female recruits to adultery with the aggravation of sexual assault. One of them has been charged with rape. In addition, 12 other instructors are suspected of having sexually abused other soldiers. The situation has led to a review of the Army's training system.
Commands investigate to what extent sexual harassment of female recruits is widespread
It was an individual complaint, filed a year ago by a recruit, which unleashed the skein that has brought to light a sexual scandal comparable to the one that in 1996 led to the conviction of 12 instructors from the Aberdeen Navy base of sexual abuse ( Maryland). In total, 31 women from the Lackland base have reported abuses similar to those reported by their partner. "We are not leaving any stone unturned," said General Edward A. Rice, responsible for training and teaching of the Air Force, during a visit to the Pentagon to explain the progress of the investigation, in statements collected by The Washington Post.
The investigation specifically affects the 331st Training Squadron at Lackland Base, through which 36,000 recruits pass each year. A quarter of the instructors in that unit have been charged or are under suspicion. Although Rice said that he did not believe that the behavior of the members of that Squadron had spread to the rest of the base, the fact is that several veteran officers of other training centers of the United States Army have acknowledged having problems similar to the one in Texas. This has led to the opening of new investigations to determine to what extent sexual harassment of female recruits is widespread in the Armed Forces and whether the system for selecting those in charge of instruction and the training model should be subject to review.
Last year, 3,200 incidents related to sexual assault and abuse in the US Armed Forces were reported or investigated
The debate has focused on the advisability of separating the training of recruits by sex, a theory rejected by various associations for the defense of women's rights, claiming that in the Marine Corps – the only one in the US Army in which women They train apart from men – the number of complaints of sexual abuse is not less than in other branches of the Armed Forces. California Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier has urged the House Military Services Committee to hold a series of hearings on this case, just as it did 16 years ago with the Aberdeen scandal. Speier, highly critical of the way in which sexual assaults are prosecuted within the Army, is in favor of increasing the number of female instructors in military academies and recruitment centers and investigating allegations of abuse and are processed independently to prevent those involved from covering each other.
Last year, 3,200 incidents related to sexual assault and abuse in the US Armed Forces were reported or investigated, according to data from the Department of Defense that also warns that at least another 19,000 were not made public out of fear. The Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, announced new initiatives in April to encourage victims to report and demand that all who interpose be investigated.
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