Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

January 24, 2013

Air Force general calls sex assaults a 'cancer’

WASHINGTON — Sexual misconduct within the Air Force’s ranks is a “cancer” that the service is committed to eradicating, the Air Force’s top officer said Wednesday at the first congressional hearing into a sex scandal at a training headquarters in Texas.

“I will never stop attacking this problem,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee.

But underscoring the challenge that the Air Force faces, Welsh said the service recorded a disturbing number of reports of sexual assault last year. The preliminary figures show there were 796 reports of cases, ranging from inappropriate touching to rape, according to Welsh’s testimony.

The 2012 figure would be a nearly 30 percent increase from 2011, when 614 cases were reported. The number could be much greater, Welsh said, because many cases are never reported.

“Calling these numbers unacceptable does not do the victims justice,” Welsh said. “The truth is, these numbers are appalling.”

The 2012 figures are being audited and reviewed before being included in a report the Defense Department will submit to Congress in April, according to Welsh.

Even more disturbing than the number of reports of sexual assault is the fact that most of the offenses are committed by fellow airmen, Welsh said.

The scandal at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio continues to unfold nearly two years after the first victim came forward. All U.S. airmen report to Lackland for basic training. The base has about 500 military training instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. About 1 in 5 recruits is a woman; most instructors are men.

The preliminary results of Air Force investigation released in November described abuses of power by instructors who took advantage of a weak oversight system to prey on young recruits.

The investigation has found that 32 military training instructors allegedly engaged in inappropriate or coercive sexual relationships with 59 recruits and airmen at Lackland, according to the Air Force. Six instructors have been convicted in courts-martial on charges ranging from adultery, rape and conducting unprofessional relationships. Nine more instructors are awaiting courts-martial. Two more received nonjudicial punishments. Fifteen 15 instructors remain under investigation.

The Air Force has changed the way it selects officers and instructors who train new recruits and created a special unit of lawyers and investigators to assist victims of sexual assault.

Welsh said he has stressed to the Air Force’s officer corps and senior enlisted ranks the importance of eliminating sexual misconduct. As part of that effort, Welsh issued a “Letter to Airmen” this month that said images, songs and stories that are obscene or vulgar are not part of the Air Force heritage.

Not everyone who commits sexual assault is a predator, but there are predators in the ranks and they have to be found before they act, Welsh said.

The Air Force also has to identify and stop the activities that can lead to inappropriate actions.

“A young man who routinely binge drinks and loses control of himself is going to conduct bad behavior,” Welsh said. “That bad behavior could result in sexual assault. Let’s stop the binge drinking.”

An Air Force veteran who pressed Congress to hold hearings on the misconduct at Lackland said in her statement to the committee there is a sexual assault epidemic in the military. Jennifer Norris said she medically retired in 2010 and was sexually assaulted while serving in the Air Force but not at Lackland. She told the committee she frequently has seen well-intentioned reforms fall short.

Fundamental reforms are needed “to change a military culture and fix the broken military justice system,” said Norris, who serves as an advocacy board member of the group Protect Our Defenders.

 

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • FAA: Small plane accident in Ga. woods

    The Federal Aviation Administration says a small plane has been destroyed by fire in an accident in a wooded area of western Georgia and that two people were aboard.

    July 13, 2014

  • Germany wins World Cup in extra time

    Mario Goetze volleyed in the winning goal in extra time to give Germany its fourth World Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Argentina on Sunday.

    July 13, 2014

  • Airman laid to rest six decades after death

    Airman laid to rest six decades after death

    July 13, 2014

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Rich copy.jpg Israeli troops raid rocket launching site in Gaza

    Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and deployed ground troops inside Gaza for the first time early Sunday to raid a rocket launching site in the Palestinian territory. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Immigration Overload _Rich copy.jpg Backlogged immigration courts face new deluge

    Adolescent girls in braids and pigtails and teenage boys wearing jeans and sneakers sat alongside their parents in the courtroom of Immigration Judge Frank Travieso to hear how long they might be allowed to stay in the United States.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Teachers Masters Degr_Rich copy.jpg Districts debate merits of master’s for teachers

    Efforts to eliminate extra pay for teachers who earn advanced degrees are gaining momentum in a small but growing number of U.S. schools, stirring a national debate about how best to compensate quality educators and angering teachers who say the extra training is valuable.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fundraiser BBQ sale planned

    Kemet Universal Red Dirt BBQ will sponsor  “Project Hope for Life” Back to School Fundraiser BBQ Sale from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. July 18 and Aug. 1 at the Variety Store, located at 124 West Street.

    July 13, 2014

  • AP7707130105 copy.jpg Today in HIstory for Sunday, July 13, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 13, the 194th day of 2014. There are 171 days left in the year.

    July 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • Houston Suburban Shoo_Rich copy.jpg Shooting suspect collapses twice in court

    A man accused of killing six members of his ex-wife’s family, including four children, after forcing his way into their suburban Houston home collapsed in court twice Friday as a prosecutor read out details of the crime.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Apartment Fire_Rich copy.jpg Immigrant community rallies after fire kills seven

    Soben Pin wept as she tried to express her sorrow Friday over a fire that claimed the lives of five members of a Cambodian family and displaced dozens more in Massachusetts.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

The sales tax holiday is Aug. 1-2. Does it affect your back-to-school shopping?

Comes too late. Shopping's done.
Perfect timing.
Too early. Kids need supply lists.
     View Results