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Air Force Rape Scandal: The Report

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This issue was definitely one of the most intense threads on Winds of Change.NET. Trent Telenko has now emailed me with the aftermath (upgrade that dial-up connection, dude!), and says: "I feel a big 'I Told You So' coming on." Trent may be very entitled, now that a draft report is being released that lends credence to many of his charges. MSNBC has the story, and the numbers are not good (but see "UPDATE"). Meanwhile, the Academy is now admitting that the honor system itself may be at stake. Here's our series of posts covering this issue. Remember, you read it here first:
* [TT, 2003-03-09] The Air Force's Serbian & Saudi Values. Trent says there's a serious, widespread problem at the Academy. It gives details, make some proposals, and says major reform is required - including reconsideration of the honor code and maybe even the demise of the Academy. Very lively Comments section. * [JK, 2003-03-14] Air Force Rape Scandal: Culture & Conclusions. Brings forth more details and feedback from readers with experience in that system, in order to illustrate the dynamics and often difficult choices. Also engages Trent's proposals for reform. Lively debate follows. * [TT, 2003-03-19] Air Force Rape Scandal Redux. Looks at the firing of the top 2 administrators at the USAFA, and brings forth another example to illustrate his points. * [TT, 2003-04-15] Air Force Rape Scandal Update. Trent remains unimpressed. * [2003-08-01] Rape and The Army. Interesting post from personal experience, by Rev. Donald Sensing, formerly Maj. Donald Sensing. Not ours, but so relevant it had to be included. JK UPDATE: I thought we had some pretty good comments secxtions going in the series to date, but for insight, good points, and civil discussion, this one tops em' all. One of the best threads we've ever had on Winds of Change.NET! The Bitch Girls weigh in, and bring to light a very important qualifier for this report: bq. "Sexual assault was defined as anything from unwanted touching to rape." That's a problem, in that "unwanted touching" and "rape" are not even remotely comparable. Equating them like this trivializes rape, clouds the extent of the real problem at AFA, and diminishes the seriousness of the report. More's the pity, because based on the aftermaths for several women who complained, AFA has a real problem. Fortunately, Jonquil in the comments section brings forward stats that show a serious rate for serious offenses, and restore perspective to the debate.

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Tracked: August 29, 2003 2:51 PM
I Was Right To Be Upset from The Bitch Girls
Excerpt: Remember way back when people thought that the reports of widespread sexual assault at the Air Force Academy was being hyped up by the media? Guess what. They weren't hyping it up. In fact, I don't think they even got


Whenever this issue comes up, I don't know what to say. I'm not going to enter this discussion, not from lack of interest but because it hits too close to home for me; not directly, but a relative, but not in the Air Force. I'll just say that it isn't just the Air Force that has this kind of problem and we remain unhappy - to put it mindly - to this day with how the other service handled things and many of the stories that came out with respect to the Air Force Academy are all too familiar sounding.

I have a problem with how the services "educate" the cadets. Namely, I have a problem with the servitude that is expected from the lower-rung cadets towards the upper classman. The thinking to maintain the process is that "it has worked well in the past." Well, it has worked well in the past despite being such an absurd, humilliating system. I fail to see how a system that breeds bullies and victims would produce anything but bullies and victims. This isn't a new problem. In the 1900's Douglass McArthur suffered through his years at West Point. Later, as Director of the Academy, he tried to change the Bully Paradise, without success. It is time to make the Academies a place where free men and women become honorable officers of the Armed Forces. It is time to finish what Douglass McArthur started.

I said this in one of my earlier posts and it bears repeating:

"Rape is part of the human condition. It will happen in any institution with people in it. The measure of that institution is how it responds to this crime. By that standard, the USAF fails miserably. Treating rape less seriously than travel voucher fraud and shunning the rape victim as a "nutty slut who had it coming" are the signs of a dysfunctional institutional culture that can only be cured through serious purges."

The other American military services have a problem with sex in general and rape is an aspect of this. That is why this same survey is going to be given at the other service academies, to get a handle on how bad it is.

The crux of the issue with the USAF is that the Air Force Academy is the seat of the USAF's institutional culture far more than it is for the other military services.

The Navy and the Army have far more in the way of leadership development over the careers of their officers than the USAF. It is just an institutional fact of life that the Army and Navy have more in the way of leadership developing institutions, and spend a great deal of time and money on keeping them fresh and relevant.

The fall of the Strategic Air Command hurt USAF leadership development in ways only now becoming readily apparent. The anti-intellectual bias of the "Fighter-Jock Mafia" that dominate the USAF's senior ranks means that the USAF's other leadership and professional development institutions will be stunted in comparison to America's other military services.

Given that background, if rape is an unofficial core value of the AFA, how can we trust senior grade AFA officers with high command, executing national policy, or trust them guarding nukes?

Having attended WooPoo U, I think you guys are looking at in from the outside. Are there problems at USAFA? Yes, but abolishing the Honor Code is a mistake. ENFORCING high standards of honorable conduct and ethics is the key to reforming the Academy. These standards come down from the top... and it is obvious to even the lowest Plebe what they are (or have been). The crap that's occurred at USAFA happened because of lax standards at both the command, company, and squad level. Had these folks been doing their jobs, there would hae been no rapes from the get go.

I'm a trial attorney with considerable experience in sexual harassment actions, generally employment-related.

There is no way whatever that undergraduates can be trusted to conduct their own disciplinary actions when sex is involved. None. Normally sensible adults lose it when sex is involved, and kids are far worse.

Military academy honor courts CAN'T work now that the academies are sexually integrated.

For the in-depth vriefing and round 1 of exactly the debate here between Trent & Chris, read Trent's opening article, my response, and our Comments sections.

Among the shameful numbers in this draft is one I take some solace in; 96% of the women surveyed believed the present command was making “honest and reasonable efforts to prevent or stop uninvited and unwanted sexual attention.”

How many women on U.S. college campuses have that same level of confidence in their college administrators today??

I suspect that a similar survey on many U.S. college campuses would yield equally shocking results. Although I believe few college administrators would permit the surveys in the first place.

Because the academies – and I assure you that in this, AFA is not unique among the other service academies – are public institutions responsible to the American people the level of scrutiny is, and will always remain, high and correctly so.

When Americans trust their sons and daughters to the services the level of accountability will always be higher than those of the rest of society.

I was a criminal investigator for the USAF for more than 24 years. I always believed the U.S. military addressed the question of sexual assaults with such zealousness that even the most trivial of accusations were pursued beyond a level than any civilian police department would have gone.

Trent should start sharpening his knives and look to the “discovery” of similar activities at the other service academies; now if only all the U.S. colleges and universities could provide the same level of security on their campuses……

Jim H. CMSgt, USAF ret

For whatever it's worth, I was in Class of '80 @ USAFA for two years - and the Class of '80 that entered USAFA on 7/76 was the first class with women.

A couple of points just on the survey data. First, all surveys are subject to some error, and the more sensitive the topic the more error. There's a well-known "garbology" study that used a survey on household consumption habits to find out how much alcohol people would say they consumed - and then (with permission) catalogued the garbage from the neighborhood to check against the survey data. And the survey data was very biased - I couldn't find any research studies linked in google though. So, if people "mis-estimate" how much they drink by a huge margin, might pissed off female cadets mis-estimate sexual conduct on an anonymous survey?

Second, I took several cadet surveys myself. I can't speak for anyone but myself, but the answers I gave usually depended on how bad a day/week I'd had, and I rarely had a good week ("IHTFP"). Not to mention that surveys by definition wasted a cadet's most valuable asset: time.

No question but that USAFA had lots of problems, but I'd put very little credence in the survey data, myself. None whatsoever, as a matter of fact.

The best comment in here is that the measure of an organization is how it responds.

My prediction: the armed forces will rise to the occasion, as they did after the Tail Hook Scandal. We will see the pendulum swing too far, with ridiculous expectations of purity placed on young adults that will slowly swing back toward realistic solutions to a complex problem. But the Academies will adjust and move on.

I find it interesting, this shocked-shocked outrage by outside observers regarding the Academy scandal. Not because I don't find the scandal outrageous, but because there has been such an absence of outrage, regarding the same problem of a far greater magnitude, at all other Universities and Colleges. Date rape, date rape drugs, and taping or broadcasting sex partners without their consent seems to be shrugged off with little interest, despite the rampant offenses. Girls attending a school other than a Military Academy have a far, far, greater chance of being sexually abused or raped...yet if there is outrage, it is certainly invisible in comparison. Silence...hear the wind blow.

Apparently we only require standards of honor of the men and women who choose to defend our country while giving a pass to those who run our computer, banking, legal, educational and other entities. Seems a fitting expectaion from ever-adolescent children of the 60's.

Tom Holsinger is right, even if he is a trial lawyer (strike that if he's for the defence). The first choice is to keep the service academies or shut them down. As Porphy points out this is not just an Air Force problem, except from a current PR perspective. The second choice, if one keeps them, is to drop the honor code or sexual integration. I say, You Go, Girl!

If we have to have women in the military, some thing I doubt, give them their own academy and make their uniforms purple. I suggest they get the Colorado Springs campus and the Air Force be just another service selection from either the West Point or Annapolis campuses as well. This would do a lot to engender jointness of the services instead of between the cadets.

Interesting idea, Richard.

Since Richard mentioned the subject, there's a FrontPageMag symposium on the topic of women & the military today.

I haven't had a chance to read it yet so I have no opinion on whether it's good or not. Past FPM symposiums have often been pretty good, though.

Women in the military? You betcha! I'm sure none of the services would be willing to give up their women now. They're indespensible.

Segregration is a non-starter. Folks that don't train together, can't perform together. Instead, we should EXPECT our service folks to behave like honorable adults.

The honor code and the enforcement of it (at least at W.P.) is not meant to deal with rape, or truly criminal acts. These things are taken care of under the UCMJ. At USMA there is a field grade officer or Senior NCO that acts as an advisor to the Cadet Cadre. Again the honor code and the rape issue are two seperate issues... the rapists, if convicted, should spend a great deal of time breaking big rocks into little ones, and then into fish-tank gravel. I fail to see why or how the Honor system became relevant to the Criminal charges, unless there is something I do not know about how these cases came to light.

"Segregration is a non-starter"

I dunno Lurker, the USMC STILL insists on segregation of the sexes and has the lowest incident rates of sexual assault in the military.

Maybe more segregation is the answer.

The difference between rape at a normal college and rape at a military institution is that civilian upperclassmen are not in a position of authority over underclassmen. The issue at the AFA isn't just rape, it's institutionalized rape. When a Colorado University student reports rape, she can't be pulled before the honor committee for improper sexual contact. When an Air Force Academy cadet does the same, she can be and frequently is.

Finally, when a Colorado University student reports a rape, it goes to the police. When an AFA cadet reported rape, until recently, it was treated as a strictly military matter. And the military system of justice doesn't seem to have been prosecuting with any degree of zeal.


Females are deterred from reporting sexual harassment by fear of retaliation from so-called honor courts. The latter could not withstand a statisical investigation using the standards developed for 42 USC 1983 civil actions.

Honor courts are gone. They vulnerable to objective investigation and the AFA scandal is bringing that. IMO the services know the AFA scandal is bringing a larger investigation which risks too much. They'll close down the honor courts to head that off.

Maybe so Jim. But would this solve anything, or itdefer the problems. At some point military personal have to be able to exercise some self control. And we're not talking about grunts in this case. It's future officers. How is removing the temptations going to improve their character?

Mr. Holsinger,
Honor Courts or Honor Boards (as they are called at USNA) are an essential part of the moral/military education of cadets or midshipmen. There is no greater sin in the military than lying and this needs to impressed in to people. The reason for this is that filling in false readings on a log (gundecking)or making a false report can and has gotten people killed. If something is out of order that you are responsible for and perhaps are at fault for, this needs to be known. In order to make sure people report this instead of lying to avoid the hit, honor offences are accorded as the most grevious of errors. Honor Courts are set up to deal with this singular manner of offense. It is a board of your peers who convene and then make a recommendation to a higher officer. If females who claim they were raped are being stood up in front of one of these boards there is more going on than a rape case. Her veracity in the matter is being questioned. If her honor is upheld however, nothing comes of it, if it is not, there is a serious reason to question her apptitude for becoming an officer. You must additionally realize that the military is not civilian life; we do not have many of the same priveleges/rights that civilians do and additionally have great responsibilities. We give up some of our freedom to protect yours. I am certain that Honor Courts might not be legitimate under standard U.S. civil law. Neither probably are Captain Masts or non-juducial punishments. However, they are necessary parts of the military that you agree to when you join. We do and we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard because unlike other college students, in several years we will be operating machines that can kill hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, and we will be responsible for our enlisted folk underneath us. If we cannot handle the burden of choosing the correct side as a jury in whether someone lied or not, how are we supposed to be officers? I would be very scared for our future if this is the case. The Honor System at all the Academies needs to stay.

A few things to think about:

Cadets are subject to the UCMJ, as well as the cadre at the USAFA (Art. 2, UCMJ). Rape is a capital offense, Art. 120; failure to investigate and prosecute is arguably a crime under failure to obey regulations, Art. 92; cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates, Art. 93; or, being principals, accessories after the fact, or conspirators under Arts. 77, 78, 81 respectively. The best case law from the last 3 all come from the Air Force Court of Military Review. (Cases at 5 M.J. 895 and 8 M.J. 822).

Sexual harassment might be an included offense under Art. 133-134 ("conduct unbecoming") but isn't explicitly mentioned in the UCMJ. In fact, those two Articles are so broad that they might be found void for vagueness. That's what happened when a Navy court-martial for sex harassment got to the Navy/Marine Corps appellate level (United States v. Peszynski, 40 M.J. 874 (1994)).

The commandant of the USAFA, or the next command level higher, is quite capable of convening general courts-martial, certainly capable of ordering an Art. 32 (pretrial) investigation.

The USAFA doesn't have to feel that its "existence is at stake." They simply have to enforce military law. As for the honor courts, the problem seems to be that if cadets have any judicial power, without even the rudimentary legal training a commander would have for an Art. 15 proceeding, it is vulnerable to abuse. Show me a cadet "who lies, cheats or steals, or tolerates those who do" and I'll show you someone in violation of punitive Articles of the UCMJ who deserves at least an Art. 15 if not a court-martial. We do have an honor code, it's the UCMJ, and maybe cadets should learn how to live under it as part of their training.

Judging by the comeback comments to Trent’s postings, we do need to make these points. Maybe it'll take some cadets getting sent to Ft. Leavenworth on life or capital sentences.

I've written a rather lengthy article on this for my law review, some of which Trent has mentioned in past posts (i.e., [TT, 2003-03-09] The Air Force's Serbian & Saudi Values). It involved re-writing Art. 125 to be a seamless ban on all forms of sexual harassment, and as a punitive statute.

I have not gone through the academy system, it is true, but my MP training, and now my law studies, have given me an appreciation of law enforcement. There's plenty of honor in equal protection under the law, a part of a Constitution we swore to preserve, protect and defend.

Trent: The "Fighter Mafia" was a term used to describe a certain few people in the Tac Air office at the Pentagon from the mid-'70s to the early '80s. These were the people who pointed out what pieces of crap the F-111 and B-1 were, and pushed for the F-16, A-10, and to some extent the F-15.

The Generals hated the fighter mafia and no member of the fighter mafia ever wore stars. They were rebels. BOYD by Robert Coram is an excellent history of the fighter mafia.

"Rape" is a loaded word. So much so that the accusation has the same weight as a conviction.
In fact,we have no idea what is happening at the Academy until each case is investigated.
Some years ago, the USAF CID surveyed their numbers and discovered that one third of the accusations of rape were false, as defined by being recanted by the victims. That's a pretty high bar for deciding the accusation is false.
We only know that there are some accusations.
The last trial I heard of had to do with a couple getting drunk and each believing it was consensual until the next day when the woman decided she'd been ill-used. This is not the same as forcible sexual intercourse with violence or threat of violence.
Christina Hoff Sommers in her book "Who Stole Feminism" relates a study in which a professor queried co-eds on what had happened to them on various dates. Based on his own criteria, he decided that half of them had been raped, a conclusion which was news to the women involved, many of whom disagreed.
It is difficult to get a handle on the issue until we know for sure what is happening.
For example, one Ivy League school has been hammered by certain women's groups for insisting on due process for a man accused of rape. It is a threat to the accuser or something. If a woman accuser at Colorado Springs feels that a reasonable investigation which includes the possibility that the incident was not necessarily as she first related it is a threat, then we have further accusations that the Academy is treating the women accusers as having done something wrong.
We need facts, not hysteria. Unfortunately, even a call for facts is sometimes considered as condoning rape.

Pete: There's multiple fighter mafias out there . . . . . . .

When SAC got put out of biz and dunderheads such as Merrill McPeak started pushing golden boy fighter jocks up through the ranks, the "fighter mafia" took on a whole new meaning (or so I'm told).

> If her honor is upheld however, nothing comes of it, if it is not, there is a serious reason to question her apptitude for becoming an officer.

But what women are claiming, and producing evidence to back up, is that some of the honor courts are more concerned with protecting the accused than with upholding the truth.

If you go read the Inspector General's report, you'll see that the problems at the Air Force Academy are a lot deeper than "he said, she said". Eighty percent of the women who said they'd been raped in the most recent survey also said they never reported the attacks. Of those who reported incidents to authorities, nearly half said they experienced reprisal of some kind. MSNBC report; full PDF of IG report

This isn't a single survey -- the Air Force has ten years of surveys with very similar numbers.

If you go to and scroll down to the links you'll see page after page of substantive evidence that there's a long-standing problem.

Brigadier General Weida said yesterday, "Ladies and gentlemen, if you think we don't have a sexual assault or a sexual harassment problem at the Air Force Academy - your head is in the sand," Weida said. "Pull it out right now."

Let's take a look at a couple of numbers. According to the prelim report, 11% of the senior class females were victims of rape or attempted rape. Note that - rape or attempted rape. 16% of the total female cadet body were victims of some form of sexual misconduct of which the bottom level was unwanted touching, but any woman who graduates has a better than 1 in 10 chance of having someone try to rape her. Let's make it plainer. IIRC there were approximately 150 women in the last graduating class. That gives us 16 victims in that class alone.

Let's do a swift comparison. Texas A&M has a total student body of approximately 44,000. Roughly 20% are seniors (the rest either under- or post-grads), and about half are women. If Texas A&M were "just as bad" - that is, if it were just more of the same but it's not a chance to hammer the military, there would be approximately 450 claims of rape or attempted rape over that class's four years from that class alone - basically, 450 claims per year. Not unwanted sexual touching, but rape or attempted rape - for the past decade.

Yes, I said for the past decade. According to the AP, surveys that included similar questions (just not "official" or "scientific") have been conducted since 1996 (excluding 1999). And the Alleged Sexual Assault rate has run from 11 to 19%. I find it worth pondering another number: In that time, only two cadets have been brought before courts-martial for sexual crimes (rape, sexual assault, attempted rape). Actually there has recently been a third - just this year.

I don't have the article any more, but I recall that there had been about 100 allegations brought over the ten years (and an average of another 75 per year through the cadet counseling hotline). And there were two courts-martial. In other words, the USAFA has found that 98% of the female cadets who report a sex crime are overreacting, lying to get a male cadet, or otherwise not providing sufficient cause to make a case. That... is peculiar. Yes, I'm sure it's true sometimes. But 98% of the time? That hits my reality check limit.

One more side-track I'd like to leave in everyone's mind. The Army Times recently had a little expose about sexual misconduct at Basic Training in Aberdeen. The survey said that 10% of the female graduates said they'd been the victim of rape, attempted rape, or other sexual assault. And a followup indicated that about one in ten reported it, with approximately half those resulting in prosecutions. These are the folk who don't usually go to college, and certainly didn't have to compete for their slots in basic training (to the extent that only one in ten were chosen). In comparison, of the women that each out-do nine other competitors to go to the USAFA... A higher proportion were victims of rape, attempted rape or other sexual assault. Allegedly the same proportion of those claiming such crimes occurred reported them to the authorities. Yet only 2% (instead of 50%) were prosecuted.

I sadly expect witch-hunts. And terribly, some innocents and borderliners will be burned. But while direct blame is solely that of the overzealous trying to cut out the rot, I lay a healthy proportion of the blame on the command staff that turned a blind eye in one fashion or another to the problem, and let it become systemic.

Is consentual sex also against the honor code? If so, if the Honor Boards were honest, the perps would get in as much touble for that as for rape. Even if the women 'are asking for it', how come they're the only ones being punished? Something definitely stinks here.

Consensual sex is against the honor code. Some women who complained of sexual assault have been given demerits for violating these rules. See here.

> Marie, who is now attending college in the Northeast, found that to be true the hard way. After a short investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigation, they handed her several reprimands.

> She received seven of the most serious reprimands and punishments possible including one for sexual activity in cadet dorms, drinking alcohol and fraternization with upperclassmen.

The cadet counselor who encouraged this woman to report the assault now says,
> He said in a written letter, "I encouraged her to come forward. This was a grave mistake on my part. I should never have trusted the Air Force Office of Special Investigation ... I should have never trusted the command representatives ... It is my firm belief that the victim would be better off (both professionally and emotionally) today if she had never come forward."

People seem to be making a lot of assumptions about the state of affairs at USAFA. I would bet a months pay that maybe a tenth of what is really going on, good or bad, is being covered by the media and reported to people like yourselves. Guys like Trent mean well, but let's face it, most people are guessing when it comes to figuring out the service academies.
So, why am I posting, if that's the case? I graduated from the Zoo in 1992 and am currently an Air Force helicopter pilot in New Mexico. A few of my good friends are currently stationed at the Academy, including one guy who is a squadron Air Officer Commanding (Tac Officer equivalent). Believe me, I've thought a lot about this whole issue and here are some random musings on the whole thing:

- Firing general officers and full bird colonels that are only around for two years was stupid. That just shows the cadets how malicious the system is when it comes to public scandal. If you want to hammer people, hammer the guys committing the offenses. Believe me, if a guy at the Academy wants to attack a classmate, he'll find a way and there isn't a damn thing some general or colonel can do about it.

- The admissions process to USAFA is broken and has been for some while. I was lucky, I used my Eagle Scout award to make up for my only-above-average grades. For the most part, though, the Academy admissions office was only interested in admitting people that A) filled quotas, B) have ridiculously high SAT/ACTs or C) have some incredible athletic skill that would fill a spot on a varsity team. How does that guarantee that any of them have any honor or integrity? Well, the answer is, it doesn't, and the scandal now unfolding is pretty damning evidence of that.

- Going with that second thought, the Academy doesn't 'make' sexual predators. Those guys probably would have done the same thing at a state school, only it would happen at a frat house and no one in the media would give a shit. To suggest that perfectly normal people get warped by attending the Academy is asinine. The Academy tends to amplify the person you already are. If you are basically a good person, the Academy will enhance that. If you have issues, though, the Academy will amplify those as well. You wouldn't believe how screwed up some of the people who get into USAFA are. A lot of people that go to service academy have some emotional baggage, and most of the time the institution has no friggin' idea until it's too late. Hell, I had a female classmate in Basic who tried to grab a bayonet and kill herself. No one, including the officers, knew anything about her problems. Turned out she was crazier than a sprayed roach and had a long medical history of depression. Guess the admissions board didn't dig deep enough when they were filling that quota. Therefore, I looked at my classmates with mixed feelings. Some were great, but some were trouble waiting to happen. That applies to both the guys and gals, by the way.

- Following that thought, is there a chance that false claims are being made? Absolutely. I saw some of that too, when I was there. A lot of the personal conflicts at USAFA were very ambiguous in who was at fault. I can very easily imagine the frustration of the officers at the Academy who tried to determine who was to blame whenever a charge of harassment, assault or rape was being made. Quick example: In 1993, a young woman claimed she was raped by several guys down by the obstacle course. The Cadet Wing was enraged and there were actually guys prowling the grounds trying to locate any hidden rapists and beat the shit out of them. After describing a couple of the attackers as being dark haired, a large number of dark-haired cadets were actually placed in a line-up in an attempt to locate the guilty parties. Eventually, though, the truth came out. The whole thing was a hoax. There was no assault, it was an imaginary event, probably invented to get attention. Of course, while the original charge was all over the papers, no one reported the discovery that it was all made up. That would make the media look foolish and we can't have that, can we? All in all, a very sad episode, not least because it probably hindered any reports of real assaults that might have happened later.

- Does anyone really believe that some male cadet could be caught raping a fellow cadet and get away with it? Do you people have any idea what I would do to someone under my command if I thought they were a sexual predator? 99% of the Air Force leadership would go thermonuclear if they had clear evidence of that kind of crime. But that's the problem - evidence. When something as serious as sexual assault comes down to competing testimonies, what do you do? You don't want to punish an innocent man, but you also don't want to chance letting a heinous crime go unpunished. So you come up with half-measures and vague policies and pray to God nothing bad happens on your watch. Along with that, most high-ranking officers at the Academy have no idea how to prevent guys from just flipping out and grabbing the female cadet next door. They really don't. Hammering the guy doesn't work, the damage has already been done at that point. Plus, guys are pretty good at pulling the 'yeah, Joe got caught, but I'm smarter than him, I'll never get busted' line of reasoning. You could segregate the sexes in different areas, but that doesn't replicate the 'real' Air Force and is doomed to fail in any case. The reason why all these measures are doomed to fail really has nothing to do with admissions or leadership or mandatory 'social actions/sexual harassment' classes that everyone sleeps through. The real problem is the basic set-up of modern military academies.

-Because, let's face it, you have a bunch of 18 to 21 year-olds living in close quarters for four years. Most of the personalities there are aggressive, because, surprise, surprise, they are training to be in the military. So you have a very fine line being trod. You want aggressive, gung-ho people in their late teens/early 20s who want to engage enemy forces and win wars. At the same time, you don't want a bunch of wild barbarians running around like something from "Lord of the Flies". And there is no escape from your fellow cadets. When you eat, sleep, PT, march, watch TV, etc... with the same folks day in and day out, it can have a pretty bad effect on civility between the sexes. Whoever said that familiarity breeds contempt knew what they were talking about. People in the regular military get to take a break, go home, have a life, get away from the unit. Sure, you might deploy for 2,3, maybe 6 months, but that's not so long. Not at the Zoo. The Academy is the last vestige of the old 'single guys living in barracks', only it's not single men anymore, it's single men and women. Does anyone realize that the service academies are the only part of the Armed Forces where you are forbidden to get married? And if you are and get discovered, you'll probably get kicked out (for lying, if nothing else)? You can be an 18-year-old private in the USMC and be married. However, a 22-year-old senior at USAFA is risking his commission if he gets hitched while at the Academy.

- So what does this all add up to? Sad to say, but the people advocating closing the doors of USAFA and transfering everyone to ROTC are on the right track. As much as it pains me, a past graduate, to say, I think it's time to put USAFA out of it's misery. Maybe there was a time that coed, barracks-oriented military commissioning training could work, but that is no longer the case. Too much damage has been done for the institution to survive with it's soul intact. Most of the things I enjoyed about the Academy are long gone. Better to end things cleanly than to let the Academy limp along, an embarrassing shadow of it's former self. That really would be the kindest thing to do.

I've seen a lot of talk about the culture of USAFA in these posts and comment threads. What about the culture these cadet/kids come from? What have they learned before being immersed in a demanding, exhausting, overwhelming experience? Do the girls know how to express themselves assertively in a positive way? Do they know how to handle conflict, among themselves and with males, without resorting to passive-aggressive behaviors? Do the boys know how to handle their culturally enhanced hormonal tendencies? Do they see girls as "people" or "other"? If they don't have the skills or the tools to handle relationships of all kinds before they get to the Academy, how can we expect these young people to respond well when challenged by the realities of this military lifestyle? And if we want these kids to be role models, maybe we should give them some good ones first.

Some additional details are pertinent now that Bob has surfaced. The military academies in general, and the Air Force Academy in particular, are in really serious trouble here for reasons not really public yet. The services know it, which is why they admit the continued existence of cadet honor courts is at issue. That is a signal.

Bob is chairman of the board of directors of the American Civil Liberties Union chapter in Marin County, California. He was a field grade reserve military police officer in the Army. And he is a journalist. That is a potent combination on this particular issue.

His next law journal article concerns sexual extortion in the military. I've helped edit it.

And, as a trial attorney experienced in sexual harassment cases, I assure you that cadet honor courts are a classic vehicle for sexual extortion.

The Air Force Academy will be deadly danger once a serious Congressional investigation starts on this subject - one in which counsel use the statistical methodologies for determining sexual discrimination and harassment developed for civil litigation. Such an investigation would almost certainly spread to the other service academies.

And then the roof will come off.

The armed forces will do almost anything to keep that from happening, which is why they are signalling now that they'll sacrifice the honor courts.


That is very sad. We are sacrificing some very important institutions that were not built over night on the altar of an ideology that has nothing to do with developing the officers necessary to defend this country.

I also re-read Bob's comment.

"Show me a cadet "who lies, cheats or steals, or tolerates those who do" and I'll show you someone in violation of punitive Articles of the UCMJ who deserves at least an Art. 15 if not a court-martial."

I doubt this is always true, though the coverse is. I do not know the UCMJ but I have had enough experience with other forms of law to know that people who have engaged in legally permissable behaviour have behaved immorally. It seems to me that the honor codes are in place to make exactly that distinction. Officers should be trained to act under a higher authority than just the UCMJ. That distinction is what we have lost.

The only higher code than the UCMJ that I'm aware of is the U.S. Constitution, from which Congress derives the ability to fund, and write laws for, the military (Art. I) and which the President commands (Art. II). The UCMJ is Title 10 in the US Code, which is to say, Federal law written by Congress.

If there's some other document that outranks those two, AND which is legally binding on U.S. military officers, I'd be curious to hear about it.

The honor codes are a part of the three service academies, and are a tradition, but if I'm hearing from these comments a hint that the honor codes or the academies are institutions separate from either Constitutional authority or the rule of law then something has gone wrong.

I might add that, to those worried about witch hunts, the UCMJ article on rape has a precise definition (Art. 120 = 10 US Code § 920) which has been even more precisely interpreted by military case law. (Look up 10 USC 920 in either the US Code Annotated or US Code Service and you'll see a whole series of cases on point). Courts-martial are governed by precise rules of investigation (Art. 32 etc) and rules of evidence. Those charges that are groundless will be found out quickly enough.

Rule of law is a simple enough concept; anybody who has the power to conduct Art. 15s (which goes down to company commander level in the Army) becomes aware of the judicial power which comes with officer rank in any branch, not just MPs or JAGs.

Mr. Harmon,

I am sure you are correct about the relarive standing of the UCMJ and the Constitution relative to what is legally binding on U. S. military officers.

When I lie down for my nightly repose, I rarely compare my behavior of the preceding day to the UCMJ or the Constitution. I will recall the Ten Commandments. Funny how things like that or "I shall neither lie nor cheat nor steal nor tolerate those who do" are far more effective means for individuals evaluating their own behaviour than all the laws written by lawyers.

If you think you have heard that "the honor codes or the academies are institutions separate from either Constitutional authority or the rule of law" from me you have heard incorrectly. But their officer candidates can be subject to standards that encompass those as well as higher standards. That is what I expect from the honor codes.

What does the UCMJ have to say about an officer deciding who to choose to undertake a task from which many of them are unlikely to return alive?

I'm an ROTC graduate '77 and my brother was West Point '78 so our experience is a little dated.

It appears that a "significant" part of the academy experience is circumventing the rules and covering up for one another. This appears to be a more significant problem at the "junior" Academy. My question is how pervasive is this phenomena? Why are we spending upwards of $600K per kid (I'm sure AFA is the most expensive per graduate) if they are determined to act like any other college kid? Why does the administration let them get away with this?

I think everyone agrees that West Point produced a lot of good officers. ROTC produced a lot of good officers. OCS produced a lot of good officers. They all also produced a lot of mediocre to poor officers. Since lieutenants cannot do a lot of damage, the system kind of sorts them out from there.

One nice thing about ROTC is that sexual assaults are not a chain of command issue. This does not do the assaulted victim or the falsely accused victim any solace, but it does not reflect negatively on the chain of command. Another point is that ROTC manages to produce quality officers without a cadet administered honor system. My conclusion is that a cadet administered honor system is not instrumental to the production of quality officers. My grim reading of the AFA sex scandal (everything that appears in the Denver and Colorado Springs papers) leads me to conclude that there are a lot of problems with the way the system works. The solution to “fixing it” is, of course, more training and tighter oversight. This goes along with the more training and tighter oversight of the whole boy-girl thing. And, of course, there is nothing in the time honored curriculum that can be sacrificed, so they just have to wedge it in. Or, maybe something has to give.

We live in a time where our standard of performance last year is not good enough this year. At 49 years old, I am working nights and weekends to retrain myself before the Internet bubble nest egg runs out. I’m working one and a half jobs. My wife is 1600 miles away getting the kid through high school. While I am not in favor of eliminating the service academies, I am very unsympathetic to institutions that fail to improve over time. Clearly, 25+ years after women entered the AFA, it has failed to improve in a critical performance area. I don’t think that the answer is: “let’s do it like before, only better”. I just don’t believe that there is any more “do it better” to squeeze out of the hard working folks at the AFA. A lot of pretty good people have tried to get it right this past 25 years and they have clearly failed. It looks to me like something has to change in a pretty fundamental way: or they risk having the whole job outsourced to ROTC. And sadly, at this point, I would not shed a tear for the AFA or USAMA or USNA if they cannot do the job. It may be that the service Academies are simply not up to the task of preparing a co-ed officer corps for today’s military.

Sorry: USAMA should be USMA (West Point)

Mr. Heddleston,

As a weekly churchgoer myself, let me quote this, from "A Man For All Seasons," something that has re-quoted in a decision (RAV v. St. Paul) written by that judicial liberal, Antonin Scalia:
"[Sir Thomas More:] This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast—man’s laws, not God’s—and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?"

And this:

"There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid." -- Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, No. 78

The Ten Commandments controversy is something already going on another thread. My concern is that U.S. military officers should answer to the authority inherent in their commissions, not an outside authority. That, for instance, is the difference between a Ulysses S. Grant and the West Point officers who fought against the Union. Grant and Lincoln had no hesitation on sending men out on missions from which many never returned.

I still regard my oath of office, as an officer, as binding above all else. Whether the Ten Commandments was in the minds of those who wrote our Constitution, the Constitution is what we all swore to defend.

And in any event, I fail to see how a higher order would require us to cover up for rapists. One thing I do remember as a commander, as part of my commission, as part of the military mission, was that I was responsible for my people's well-being. That included protecting them from wrongdoing, men or women alike, and that too is a matter of rule of law. I'm still at work on that.

Mr. Harmon,

No one has suggested that any thing requires us to cover up for rapists.

The ten commandments controversy has nothing to do with my comments.

Why was Ulysses Grant reputed to have drunk so much?

I repeat:

What does the UCMJ have to say about an officer deciding who to choose to undertake a task from which many of them are unlikely to return alive?


You might not be aware what Mr. Heddleston is. The term is "troll". Do not respond to him.

The USAFA scandal has been buzzing at the periphery of my news intake until I actually dug into this post. I graduated from USMA in '93 and resigned my commission after commanding a company in early 2001. It really staggers my imagination that the cadets had anything at all to do with disposing of any rape allegations. As a commander, I had our unit JAG on speed dial and was in constant consultation when dealing with any type of UCMJ offense. I had received training in how to handle and dispose of UCMJ issues but the JAG is the subject matter expert and the the insurance that the procedures and regulations are executed properly. I'd be interested in knowing why the administrative staff of the Academy wasn't handling the matter and exercising the "adult supervision" in this case. I would think going through any other means would be an abdication of authority on the part of the USAFA staff.

Probably apropos of nothing, I note a personal experience I had while attending the USMA prep school. I was the cadet company commander and one evening, one of the female cadet candidates had locked herself in the bathroom and was refusing to come to her room at lights out. Her roommate was trying to talk into coming out and came to my room to inform me that the young woman had been raped by her boyfriend, another cadet candidate in our company. I called the company Tactical Officer who took over from there and CID arrived within a half hour. Thus ended my involvement. An evidence team arrived and the accused, for all intents and purposes, immediately ceased to be a cadet candidate.

As it turns out, charges were dropped, he was kicked out and she withdrew from the prep school. Evidently, there had been some consensual heavy petting and aborted attempt at intercourse when she had second thoughts. Interstingly enough, she did go on to become a commissioned officer (I don't know through what source, I presume ROTC) and an instructor at the Academy.

Rape is so ugly and so unnecessary.

If boys could just learn some self control - very important in most battle situations - women will do almost anything willingly.

I used to plead with women to get naked with me and snuggle for the pleasure of full body contact. I promised that I would not force sex on them. The women were often sceptical but willing to try after a lot of convincing.

I would then do exactly what I promised. Naked snuggles with no sex.

Three quarters of those I slept with would come back to me and "force" sex on me in order to find out if there was something wrong with them or me.

As for the other quarter? I enjoyed naked snuggles and kept the women as friends.

Forced sex is so wrong and so unpleasant an idea for me, let alone the woman involved, that I could never in my life even imagine rape let alone practice it.

I suppose it all comes down to respect. Respect of self, respect of others.

Which brings me to the military. They teach in leadership class that respect cannot be forced or commanded it can only be earned. A person who does not respect himself will not in a million years be able to earn the respect of others.

Tom, No ad hominem comments, please. Mr. Huddleston threw some points that I could hit into the stands, as it were.

To those in this thread who can’t picture themselves doing rape – sexual harassment going unmentioned – rape does occur in wartime and even if you don’t practice it, you may find yourself having to conduct an inquiry, if you're an officer.

Or, in war or peace, if you command men and women one of them may come to you for protection – and thuggery in your unit is something you wouldn’t want to permit, I’m sure. And unlike, say, Texas A&M, military people are much more dependent on commanders for food, shelter, safety, justice, protection from needless danger, etc. than civilian college students, and that’s true even in peacetime.

It’s also becoming plain, from the Rwanda and Yugoslavia tribunals, that rape can be a deliberate war crime by groups or by rogue states, and some of us may end up sitting in judgment on them. Better if our own house is in order.

Let me now give this thread another spin and suggest that service_men_ had better start worrying about harassment issues as well. Ten years ago, during the gays-in-the-military debate, opponents kept fretting about harassment in close quarters, or in the showers. It was as if they were well aware that the kinds of harassment inflicted on servicewomen – stares, leers, gropes, sexual extortion under color of authority – would be just as unpleasant for men. Now, the Lawrence v. Texas decision means that the military sodomy law, and “don’t ask,” are in very real trouble. (Loomis v. U.S. is now starting to move up through the Federal courts).

What’s more, sexual harassment is not a criminal offense in the UCMJ, as discussed above in this thread. And, because of something called the Feres Doctrine, servicepeople can’t sue for damages (i.e., tort).

And let me stress that the sexual harassment problem isn’t unique to the USAFA or the Air Force – Aberdeen and Tailhook proved that. It’ll take an act of Congress to cover the services.

Loomis or someone like him is apt to break through in a year or so, and Art. 125 and “don’t ask” will fall down like Saddam’s statue. The UCMJ had better have an ironclad and impartial sexual-harassment law by then. For everybody’s sake.

My wife is a USFA grad (class of 89). She is a tough girl, not a whiner. As a former Marine I respect her resilience. She was assaulted while a cadet at least three times that I know of. She sill has not opened up completely about it even to me. She still has nightmares to this day. Once was as a freshman when an upperclassman came into her room at 2am when she was asleep. She managed to fight him off before he actually raped her. That was the only incident she reported and he ended up being punished for being under the influence of alcohol, not the assault. This only made her a target. Another upperclassman ordered her to get into his vehicle to attend a function and then tried to force oral sex. The third was at survival training (SERE) by drunk upper class cadre who were left in charge after the SERE instructors left. (WTF!?)I sure hope that the leadership and climate is better for women there today than it was in her era. I am proud that she is a USFA grad who graduated near the top of her class. But no one should have to make those sacrifices to graduate from one of our fine service academies.

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