AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Air Force announced Wednesday that it is changing how it selects officers and instructors who train new recruits after a sex scandal at its training headquarters in which dozens of female recruits said they were improperly approached, sexually harassed or raped by male instructors.
Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who investigated the Air Education and Training Command, said the biggest failure came from bad instructors who took advantage of a weak oversight system and the officers who did not adequately supervise them to catch the abuses.
“Interviews revealed that some (instructors) lacked the experience necessary to effectively serve as mentors and leaders and had little to no supervisory experience,” the investigation concluded. “This lack of experience is considered particularly relevant when a single (instructor) is generally responsible for a flight of 50 or more trainees.”
The investigation concluded that 23 instructors allegedly engaged in inappropriate or coercive sexual relationships with 48 recruits at Lackland Air Force base near San Antonio. Five people have been convicted in court martials on charges ranging from adultery to rape. Another person received administrative punishment, and additional instructors still could face criminal charges.
All U.S. airmen report to Lackland for basic training. It has about 500 instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. While one in five recruits are women, most instructors are men.
In a written response to the investigation, the commander in charge of training said the Air Force will add more and better officers to supervise training units and require enlisted troops who hold instructor jobs to have more seniority.
“Leadership preparation will also be strengthened considerably through an expanded leadership orientation course that will place additional emphasis on the potential for abuse of power, sexual assault, unprofessional relationships, and maltreatment or maltraining,” Gen. Edward Rice Jr. wrote in his response to the investigation.
Rice also announced a new Military Training Oversight Council to make sure reforms are implemented and maintained.
The Air Force will also provide additional training for trainees and instructors on sexual assault and inappropriate relationships within the military.
Woodward made 45 recommendations for how to improve Air Force basic training to prevent future abuse, and Rice said the command has already instituted 13 and is on track to implement the rest by August 2013.
“Sexual attraction, power, and money are three of the most corruptive elements of the human condition, and two of these three are present in the basic military training environment,” Rice wrote. “If we do not take steps to address these corruptive elements persistently and positively, we will find ourselves in the same situation at some point down the road.”
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