Wednesday, May 8, 2013

U.S. Air Force Ugliness Is Spelled RAPE

If anyone is tired of seeing Lt Col Jeffrey Krusinki’s scratched-face mug shot then you shouldn’t start yawning yet. Read on. The Air Force has some serious problems with how their members treat female airmen. Krusinski is just the ugly inflamed tip of a deeper festering pustule within the Air Force.

Lackland Air Force Base, near Sana Antonio, Texas, is where all enlisted recruits go through eight weeks of recruit training or boot camp, as it is also known. Each year the facility processes 30,000 to 40,000 recruits for further training and assignment in the Air Force. Of those, about five percent are women.

Allegations of sexual assault surfaced in June of 2011 that first resulted in Staff Sgt. Luis Walker being convicted of the RAPE of one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others. Walker was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Since Walker’s conviction, many other members of the Lackland staff and leadership have been convicted or are under investigation. Charges are not limited to crimes of servicemen against servicewomen. Staff Sgt. Emily Allen is facing charges in a court martial for having sex with a male recruit.

As the temptation for a nudge and a grin goes around, with regard to this case, one should keep in mind that Staff Sgt. Allen was the empowered and trusted person of the two. Regardless of which gender is in the position of power and, whether the act was consensual or forced, military leaders are expected to maintain a professional relationship with all recruits. Fraternization should not be tolerated.

What’s more, the recruit may not have actually been attracted to the Staff Sgt. She could have been 10-15 years his senior and had physical attributes that he found unappealing, it is conceivable that he did not feel that he had a choice when she came on to him given that he was a recruit and she was a staff member. Of course, this is only speculation. Whatever happened is for the court martial to sort out.

Investigation and allegations of the Lackland scandal are still going on. However, now investigations are focusing more around what initial reports were provided, if any, and if appropriate actions were taken based on those reports.

The Air Force recently said that five commanders were disciplined for either not being timely in reporting problems and incidents or not taking proper action when given information of problems or incidents. The names of these commanders have not been released as their discipline was not the result of adjudication by court martial.

As the Uniform Code of Military Justice is presently written, military commanders are empowered to overturn court martial convictions with no other reason than that they believe that the defendant presented an adequate defense and court was wrong. Legislation is pending in both the House and the Senate to strip commanders of this empowerment.

There is a tendency, within the good ol’ boy network of commanders to take favor over some service members convicted within their command. This was the case in November of 2012 when Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned the conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson for sexual assault and other charges that he committed against a civilian Air Force employee. Wilkerson was to be discharged from the Air Force and serve one year in jail.

Proponents of this process say that it is not a good ol’ boy action but simply “the law” according to the UCMJ. If that is the case then why did the Air Force go to the trouble of putting Wilkerson through a trial and his victim through the trauma of testifying? Why not skip straight to the commander for simply deciding that the defendant is not guilty? That was the ultimate result.

To further salt the wound for the victim, she was not notified of this decision but, rather, heard of it as everyone else did. That still wasn't enough “not guilty” for Lt. Gen. Wilkerson. He was also added to the promotion list.

Eventually, the public outcry was loud enough that Wilkerson quietly retired from the Air Force. We shouldn't forget that his original conviction stripped him of that retirement by mandating his separation from the Air Force. The commander reinstated it by overturning the conviction.

There are women in the good ol’ boy network, too. The network is strong and well-rooted in the military. Regardless of gender, if one is going to rise in the ranks, then he or she must learn and follow the unwritten rules to survive. For women, it would seem, the fear of losing favor within the network is amplified by a naturally smaller set of resources within the network.

Lt. Gen. Susan Helm overturned a conviction for sexual assault on an Air Force captain in February of last year. That action is being scrutinized by the Senate and may prevent the former astronaut from being promoted to vice commander of the Air Force’s Space Command. Lt. Gen. Helm holds the honor of being the first U.S. military woman to travel into space.

Last weekend Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski became the poster boy for Air Force ineptitude with handling RAPE and sexual crimes. As the head of the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, he was the absolute last person in the Air Force that should be charged with sexual crimes. Nonetheless, his unhappy face is posted everywhere in the media this week with stories of allegations against him for groping a woman in a parking lot while he was in a state of drunkenness.

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response or SAPR, as it is also known, was established in 2004 by the direction of, then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfield. The purpose was to establish a consistent plan to stop sexual crimes in all of the military services with a solid top down leadership and accountability. Sadly, the leadership part didn't work out so well for the Air Force.

On the positive side, if Krusinski is convicted, it will be in a civilian court. His commander will be unable to overturn his conviction and give him a clean slate. In addition, any jail time given for the conviction will prevent him from reporting for duty to the Air Force. That could result in his, less than honorable, discharge from the Air Force and thwart any possibility of “quietly” retiring.

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