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AETC commander addresses recruits' allegations of sexual misconduct

by Tech. Sgt. Jess Harvey
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

6/29/2012 - WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The commander of the Air Force's Air Education and Training Command spoke to members of the media here June 28 about the on-going investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by military training instructors (MTIs) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.

"In the fall of 2011 we discovered, to our great disappointment, that we had a number of MTIs who were alleged to have engaged in sexual misconduct with trainees," said Gen. Edward Rice, Jr. "We are all committed to doing everything possible to investigate those allegations, to take care of the victims, to hold the perpetrators accountable and to fix any institutional problem that may have facilitated this completely unacceptable behavior."

In total, 12 MTIs have been accused of engaging in the misconduct, nine of which were from the 331st Training Squadron at Lackland. The squadron commander was relieved, and the MTIs were moved to other responsibilities within the squadron pending the results of the investigation.

Rice said the first allegation was raised by a victim in June 2011, and then, in November 2011, a group of MTIs came forward with information they overheard from other instructors.

"The vast majority of our 500 military training instructors are performing magnificently in a tremendously demanding environment," said Rice. "No one is more angry and disappointed than they are that a relatively small number of their cadre has cast a shadow over the entire program."

That's why, he said, the instructors came forward.

"Some of this alleged misconduct occurred while the trainees where in basic military training and some of this alleged misconduct occurred after the trainees graduated from BMT but were still in what we call the technical-training environment," said Rice.

But the general pointed out that, no matter where or when it happened, the Air Force has a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior and AETC has policies in place to deter it.

"Regardless of whether the activity occurred in basic military training or in the technical training environment," said Rice, "personal relationships of any kind between trainees and instructors are strictly prohibited by our regulations and our instructions."

As soon as AETC leaders received the first allegation, they began an aggressive investigation and further tightened the measures already in place to deter such misconduct.

One such measure includes a briefing given to all recruits within the first 72 hours of their arrival, according to Rice. The training group commander, chaplain, judge advocate, and sexual assault response coordinator talk to recruits about their rights and responsibilities to report misconduct.

Another measure includes comment boxes located all throughout the training areas where recruits can use comment sheets to anonymously report incidents.

"The training group commander reads every urgent sheet within 24 hours," said Rice. "And any allegation of sexual misconduct results in immediate action."

That includes the instructor being removed from his or her flight immediately and a no-contact order being issued, according to Rice. In addition, the MTI hat is removed from that instructor pending investigation.

He said the command is also looking closely at the instructor and trainee training process, the instructor selection process, and hiring more instructors among other things to combat this in the future, according to Rice.

"These actions are designed to help us address the root causes of the issue," said Rice. Additionally, Rice directed an outside look by a major general not assigned within AETC to review the command's policies and practices.

"This external review will examine all the actions we have taken thus far to address this issue and provide me with feedback on what more we can do to prevent misconduct in our training environment and to strengthen our entire training enterprise," said Rice.

"At the end of the day, the best line of defense is for the training instructors in fact to police themselves and that's what happened in this case." said Rice.

But, the general stressed, "It's important that we not pre-judge any of these cases, in any way. Remember that each person we are investigating is innocent until proven guilty."

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