Air Force Secretary Michael Donley urged graduating Air Force Academy cadets Wednesday to take on the “scourge” of sexual assaults, echoing the message President Obama delivered to the Naval Academy last week.
“Today, the character of our Air Force is being questioned by some,” Donley told more than 1,000 graduates. “Our reputation is at risk from irresponsible and even criminal behavior within our ranks.”
Donley noted the graduating cadets were trained in sexual assault prevention, but he said policies aren’t enough, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.
“This is your Air Force, and changing behavior depends on changing at every level the command climate and social culture in which we operate and live, both on and off duty,” he said.
At Annapolis, Md., on Friday, Obama told Naval Academy graduates that people who commit sexual crimes “threaten the trust and discipline that makes our military strong.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hit the same theme at West Point’s graduation on Saturday.
“Sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military are a profound betrayal — a profound betrayal — of sacred oaths and sacred trusts,” he said.
The Pentagon released a report this month estimating that as many as 26,000 military members were sexually assaulted last year and that thousands of victims are unwilling to come forward, despite new oversight and assistance programs. A handful of cadets at the Air Force Academy have faced sexual misconduct or sexual assault cases since January 2012.
About 19,000 assaults were estimated to have occurred in 2011.
Vintage warplanes took the place of F-16 fighter jets in the traditional flyover above the Air Force Academy Stadium as the newly commissioned Air Force second lieutenants hurled their caps into the air in celebration.
The World War II-era planes flown by volunteers filled in for the Air Force Thunderbirds, which were grounded by budget cuts.
Donley decried the budget cuts, saying they are undermining military readiness.
Information from: The Gazette, http://www.gazette.com