BY HILDA CUZCO
What began with charges of rape and sexual harassment at U.S. Army training centers in Maryland and Missouri has become a widening investigation. A toll-free number, set up by the U.S. Army after allegations of sexual misconduct against instructors at Aberdeen Proving Ground Ordinance Center in Maryland, has received thousands of complaints, most of them from women at other bases and other military services. Of the 3,100 calls logged as of November 16, military officials say about 340 are worthy of further review.
The Army brass say they want to avoid another "Tailhook scandal" by pursuing the latest charges. Dozens of pilots and other women were sexually harassed and assaulted at a 1991 convention of the Tailhook Association, a group of Navy and Marine aviators. Navy officials' attempts to cover up the incident caused particular scandal.
"We will explore and leave no stone unturned," declared Maj. Gen. Robert D. Shadley, Aberdeen trading center commander, in a November 8 news conference. Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated that investigations will go to "all training centers, to get to the bottom of this."
The charges include rape and sexual harassment, as well as consensual relations between officers and soldiers. According to military rules it is illegal for officers and recruits to fraternize.
At Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, Staff Sgt. Loren Taylor pleaded guilty at a general court-martial on allegations of sexual misconduct. Taylor has been sentenced to five months in prison and a bad conduct discharge. Trials for Sgt. George Blackley and Staff Sgt. Anthony Fore are scheduled for sometime in December.
In addition, four more noncommissioned officers have been charged for breaking rules against relationships with recruits and indecent assault. In total, 10 instructors have been suspended from their posts and reassigned on that base, which trains around 25,000 new recruits a year, 25 to 30 percent women.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground, a captain and two sergeants have been charged with rape and sexual harassment.
Sgt. Delmar Simpson was jailed. He faces charges of nine rapes involving three recruits. Army documents allege Simpson told one of the women, "If anyone finds out about me having sex with you, I'll kill you." Capt. Derrick Robertson, Simpson's commander, has been charged with rape, sodomy, and adultery, and Sgt. Nathanael Beach with adultery, threatening a soldier, and illegal relationship with recruits.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal Rep. Steve Buyer, a member of House National Security Committee, commented that the sex scandal at Aberdeen may prove an opportunity to reverse gender integration in the Army.
Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr. told the Washington Post, "We could solve this by not having women being trained. But that answer disregards the nature of our society and our responsibility."
Sexual harassment is widespread in the military. In one 1995 Pentagon survey of 90,000 female soldiers in various branches of the military, 60 percent said they had been subject to such abuse, and nearly 10 percent reported being sexually assaulted.
At Aberdeen, where about 20 percent of the 11,000 recruits are women, female soldiers are now under orders to be with their designated "battle buddy," a fellow recruit, at all times. Army officials say this is to protect the women and guard against false accusations of abuse.
Meanwhile the Associated Press reported November 16 that eight instructors have been disciplined on charges of sexual harassment and misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Twelve women recruits filed complaints there in 1994.
The San Antonio Express-News also reported on November 14
that five sergeants have been disciplined for sexual misconduct
at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. Officials at Fort Jackson in
Columbia, South Carolina, disclosed they prosecuted 27 cases in
the past year.
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