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Army uses Air Force lessons learned in basic training review

Aug. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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The Army wants to learn from the Air Force’s mistakes.

Seeking to avoid the sort of sexual-misconduct scandal that has roiled Air Force basic training for two years, Army Secretary John McHugh recently directed a sweeping review of initial military training for new soldiers.

At least 33 Air Force instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland have been accused of a range of misconduct with trainees, including sexual assault, since the summer of 2011. Two dozen have been convicted at courts-martial so far.

The scandal led the commander of Air Education and Training Command to order an investigation into the roots and depth of the problem at basic training.

The findings, released in November, revealed how young, inexperienced instructors — many with no leadership experience — were largely unsupervised. MTI positions went unfilled, leaving one trainer in charge of flights of 50 or more recruits. MTI misconduct was overlooked or met with a slap on the wrist as some MTIs began to rule by fear and conduct unprofessional relationships with trainees.

The Army is applying the Air Force’s lessons learned in its review of drill sergeant selection, training and manning. It is also examining sex assault response and prevention training, victim care and reporting outlets for recruits.

“Sexual harassment and sexual assault have ... a devastating effect on mission readiness,” McHugh wrote in a July 22 memo. “Our soldiers who are undertaking initial military training are particularly at risk, and it is in that environment where we start the process of shaping our future leaders.”

Commanders at each Army installation are to report their findings by Aug. 23.

The Army will look specifically at the flaws the Air Force found in its investigation, which was led by Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward, who now heads the service’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at the Pentagon. Those included a breakdown in leadership oversight and safeguards meant to protect young trainees.

Woodward’s report recommended more than 40 changes. Among them: Adding more women to the instructor corps, putting two MTIs rather than one in charge of flights and requiring trainers to be at least a technical sergeant.

The Air Force has also increased the presence of sexual assault response coordinators, chaplains and supervisors to make it easier for recruits to report misconduct. Wing commanders must be told about all allegations of misconduct and MTIs who are accused are immediately removed from training.

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