USAF chief, brass to review sex assaults

Jan. 23, 2013 at 1:13 PM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force chief of staff says he has summoned top brass for a review of responses to the sex-assault scandal at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.

Gen. Mark Welsh III, testifying Wednesday at a hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, said "there is simply no excuse" for the 796 reported sexual assaults in the Air Force in 2012.

"It's unacceptable," Welsh said. "We are giving it our full attention."

However, a victim of multiple sexual assaults during her time in the Air Force, retired Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Norris, said prior to her scheduled testimony at Wednesday's hearing that Congress needs to remove the matter from the military chain of command to break what she called "the cycle of repeated scandals, self-investigations and ineffective reforms," the San Antonio Express-News reported.

Norris is a board member of protect Our Defenders, which advocates on behalf of military sexual assault victims. She said she was assaulted when she served at Keesler AFB in Mississippi.

Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said Wednesday he was "particularly disturbed to learn" allegations of sexual assault at Lackland were not immediately reported to "proper authorities" and that "no action was taken by local leadership when the reporting delay was uncovered."

The Pentagon estimates 19,000 rapes and assaults are perpetrated annually in all branches of the military, but few are reported.

In all, 32 instructors or trainers have been investigated for sexual abuse of 59 recruits at Lackland, in the most recent sexual scandal to hit the U.S. military, the newspaper said.

Six basic training instructors at Lackland -- where the Air Force conducts its basic training -- have been convicted of sex offenses dating back to 2008, and nine defendants are awaiting trial.

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