Controversy has probed the Air Force after a widespread sex scandal took place at the Lackland Air Base in Texas among 32 basic training instructors and 59 alleged victims.
According to the Los Angeles Times, top officials held a hearing Wednesday (see above) to address the sexual misconduct. The hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington offered testimony from the victims, who called the sexual assaults a military "epidemic."
The repeated cases were reported in mid-November of last year, citing a fault command culture and a "leadership gap" at the center.
Edward D. Rice Jr., head of the training command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph complex that includes Lackland, said "the vast majority of our instructors served with distinction in a very demanding duty assignment." He then added, "We clearly failed in our responsibility to establish order and discipline among our instructors."
Since 2008, six basic training instructors at Lackland have been convicted of sexual misconduct. Rice says the length of time trainers serve had been reduced from four years to a maximum of three years, limiting their exposure to recruits at the Air Force's main site for basic training, where about 500 trainers mold about 35,000 new airmen annually. Staff Sgt. Eddy C. Soto faces a possible life sentence in the alleged rape of a female airman next week.
As a result, the Air Force is increasing efforts to prevent such misconduct and aid victims. Special victim teams consisting of two dozen military investigators trained to handle sexual assault cases will begin work later this month. Sixty additional military lawyers have been trained as "special victims counsel," and the Air Force plans to hire and assign a victim advocate to every installation by October.
Rice said, "The evidence indicates that our efforts are making a difference."
Photo Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/ Associated Press