Military School News
By ERIC SCHMITT with MICHAEL MOSS The New York Times
WASHINGTON, March 6 The Air Force has investigated 54 reports of sexual assault or rape over the past 10 years at the United States Air Force Academy, the secretary of the Air Force said today.
It was the Air Force first official accounting of reports of sexual attacks at the service academy, an Air Force spokesman said, and it included some reports that Air Force investigators could not substantiate.
Nonetheless, the new figures were twice the number of such incidents at the academy that cadets have reported to Congressional officials in recent weeks. As such, the new figures showed a widening of the sexual assault scandal that has seized the service academy in Colorado Springs, stirred outrage on Capitol Hill and prompted three military inquiries, which will include reviews of the Naval Academy and West Point.
On Capitol Hill today, the Air Force secretary, James G. Roche, said the number of women who have been sexually assaulted at the academy is probably much higher than 54, because many women undoubtedly were afraid or ashamed to report the abuses.
“The part that is the saddest,” Mr. Roche told a hearing of the Senate Armed Services committee (news web sites) today, “is that whatever the number is, 25, 50, there probably another 100 that we not seen.”
As Mr. Roche spoke in Washington, the top general in the Air Force, John P. Jumper, arrived in Colorado Springs for two days of meetings with cadets, faculty members, the academy military leadership and community leaders. General Jumper, who will address the 4,000 cadets on Friday, planned to remind them that they have a duty to report anything they know about any assaults, Air Force officials said.
Mindful of the Navy mishandling of the 1991 Tailhook sexual assault scandal, Mr. Roche and General Jumper have vowed to investigate accusations that current and former cadets who reported sexual assaults or rapes faced indifference or even retaliation by academy officials.
“We cannot bear the thought of a criminal being commissioned,” Mr. Roche said, talking about the academy role to produce new second cheap jerseys lieutenants. “We can bear the thought of a criminal flying around with a couple of thousand pounds of bombs under his wings.”
In addition to pursuing individual reports, top Air Force officials said today that preliminary findings of an Air Force inquiry suggested that the academy culture and values had become increasingly divorced from the acceptable standards throughout the rest of the Air Force.
“We learning enough to realize that change must occur,” Mr. Roche said. “Change in the climate, change in how we manage.”
Top Air Force officials have moved quickly to try to address the problems. Mr. Roche met Wednesday with Vice Adm. Richard J. Naughton, the Naval Academy superintendent, to discuss that academy policies, and he plans to meet with the top officer at West Point.
Mr. Roche and General Jumper plan to convene a group of women who are senior Air Force officers to review the findings and recommendations of the Air Force inquiry, led by the Air Force inspector general, Mary L. Walker. Investigators, who Mr. Roche said have met with six victims, are to submit their findings by the end of March.
“The increase in reports that we hearing only serves to underscore their commitment to get to the bottom of this in an urgent and comprehensive fashion,” said William C. Bodie, the chief Air Force spokesman.
The latest reports left senators sputtering in disbelief. “I stunned,” Senator John W. Warner, the Virginia Republican who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in a telephone interview after the hearing.
Senator Wayne Allard, Republican of Colorado, said he believed that the situation at the Air Force Academy was worse than the Tailhook scandal where scores of women complained that they were groped or assaulted by drunken pilots at a Navy booster group convention because the system had failed the cadets in this case.
“The entire support and legal system at the academy appears to have failed,” Mr. Allard said. “We really do need to instill confidence in the system so victims know when they report rape they know the rape itself will not jeopardize their career.”
In the last 10 years, two cadets have been charged with rape, Air Force officials said. One was acquitted, the other pleaded guilty at a court martial and was sentenced to seven months in jail. In other cases, administrative action was taken because there was not enough evidence to prosecute, Mr. Roche said. More than 1,500 women have attended the academy in the last decade.
Two other inquiries, by the Pentagon (news web sites) top personnel official and the Defense Department inspector general, will examine the other military service academies for possible problems. In interviews this week, officials at other military academies said they had relatively few cases of sexual assault, and that they had rigorous systems to ensure that complaints were thoroughly addressed.
Nonetheless, officials at several academies said they were monitoring http://www.cheapjerseys11.com/ the incident at the Air Force Academy to determine if their own efforts needed improvement.
At the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where 30 percent of the students are women, officials said they have had no incidents of sexual assault since at least 2000. A network of counselors is available 24 hours a day, and no complaint can be dismissed before it is reviewed by the superintendent, officials said.
At the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island, where 11 percent of the students are women, officials said they have had three incidents in the past decades, which resulted in the trials of two men. One was acquitted and the other was sentenced to nine years in prison. In response to the Air Force episode, the school, which is operated by the Transportation Department, said it has put up posters around the campus aimed at illuminating the issue of sexual assault and harassment.
The Southern Military Institute, whose organizers received national attention when they publicly called for such a school to be built in the South in 1997, has received a zoning exemption to build its school on a 446 acre site just west of Shelbyville, Bedford County Planning Director Sam Riddle said
“All the necessary approvals at the county level were granted,” Riddle said.
The property has not been purchased because the group hasn come up with all the funding, but two possible architects have volunteered to provide their services for free, said Michael Guthrie of Madison, Ala., one of the founders of the nonprofit college. Once the property is purchased, he said, it will take about a year to get the school up and running. “We have kids that want to come now,” Guthrie said. The school will set its capacity at 1,200, he said, the size of a typical Marine Corps brigade.
The school will display the Confederate flag and celebrate Confederate Memorial Day, which is April 26. It will have no problem accepting minority students, Guthrie said.
“We honor the military tradition of the South, a military history that has served this country well,” said Guthrie, a VMI graduate of 1977 and commander of a field artillery unit in the National Guard based out of Manchester, Tenn. He is the president of the school board of directors.
“The intent is understandable, but I think they also need to step back and look at the perception,” said the Rev. Dwight Ogleton, head of the NAACP chapter in neighboring Rutherford County.
“Our hope would be that they would adjust to the climate and environment in Shelbyville,” Ogleton said, “and move forward in a progressive way.”.