United States Air Force officials have a new plan of action to add more female trainers to their ranks and improve the way they protect those enrolled in Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
The changes come after an investigation into 48 claims of sexual assault or harassment beginning in 2011.
The 38-member investigation team gathered information from more than 18,000 surveys, focus groups, and interviews at training locations around the country to produce the report, which gave 46 proposals for 22 problems found in five different categories.
“The misconduct discovered at [basic training] tears at the foundational trust and core values that hold the Air Force together,” Air and Education Training Command Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr. said in a statement. “We are fully committed to enduring solutions for the BMT environment and a zero-tolerance standard for sexual misconduct.”
"[This] was the next stage in AETC efforts to deeply and deliberately evaluate our training environments,” said Rice. “We owe it to our Air Force, our Airmen, and our nation to get this right. Ensuring that we do not find ourselves looking at these same problems again is a top priority.”
The report recommends measures to improve oversight and toughen leadership criteria and training, areas they found were lacking and which promoted an atmosphere conducive to misconduct.
“Fixing these problems will require leaders who foster and promote a professional culture by directly engaging with instructors and trainees every day,” Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who headed the investigation, said in a statement. “In short, leaders must be an integral part of the training process from start to finish, building a climate of respect and discipline through action and example.”
As women make up roughly 20 percent of the Air Force, other suggestions included increasing the number of female basic trainers to 25 percent.
Since the completion of the internal review, a mandatory “wingman” policy has also been instituted.
That new recommendation calls for trainees to be in their assigned pairs at all times when not sleeping in a designated sleeping area. This practice now lasts for the duration of training, something that used to stop after the first two weeks.
Of the 48 cases of unprofessional relationships, sexual assaults, and harassment uncovered, five offenders had been court marshaled and convicted as of Oct. 30.
A total of 23 military training instructors have been accused and 16 have cases pending. One group commander and a squadron commander have lost their position. Administrative action has been taken against another six commanders and criminal investigations are still open.
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