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Discharge dropped for airman who claimed retaliation

Senior airman had accused three superiors of sexual assault and harassment

Oct. 9, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Women at Osan
The Air Force has dropped a recommendation to discharge Senior Airman Ciera Bridges. (Senior Airman Stephenie Wade/Air Force)
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The Air Force has dropped a recommendation to discharge a senior airman at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., who had accused three superiors of sexual harassment and assault.

Senior Airman Ciera Bridges, who had been facing discharge under other than honorable conditions, was featured in an Oct. 7 recent Air Force Times report on three airmen who claim they were retaliated against after accusing superiors of assault and harassment. Bridges was cited repeatedly for minor misconduct after she began making complaints against superiors for the harassment, which she said began soon after she arrived at Nellis in November 2009 and persisted for nearly three years.

Bridges alleged her chain of command retaliated against her by issuing letters of counseling and reprimands instead of handling the problems. In January, she learned she had been recommended for the discharge, which she appealed.

Bridges sought the help of advocacy organization Protect Our Defenders, which learned Wednesday the discharge has been dropped.

Bridges “is thankful for the resolution on the discharge and elated to have the opportunity to remain in the Air Force,” her defense counsel, Capt. Trae Patterson, said in a statement. “But the emotional scars from years of harassment and assault, as well as nearly 10 months of stress and fearing for her Air Force career, along with being subjugated as an outcast, remain.”

Patterson said his client still wants to see her three alleged perpetrators held accountable. Two of the airmen remain in the Air Force, including a staff sergeant Bridges accused of grabbing her in a dark office, forcing her onto a desk and pressing his groin against her. The third was allowed to retire.

Bridges’ parents, Johnny and Janice Bridges, spoke to Air Force Times at length last week about their daughter’s case. Johnny Bridges is a retired senior master sergeant who said he encouraged his daughter to report the alleged crimes, but warned her to avoid giving supervisors even the smallest reason to reprimand her.

“When you report these things, the climate changes in your workplace,” he said.

Bridges’ parents released a statement through Protect Our Defenders today: “We are delighted that finally some attention is being brought to our daughter’s case (and many others like her). ... This has been a long time coming and, in our opinion, long overdue.”

Protect Our Defenders also lauded the Air Force’s decision but called on the service to investigate the alleged retaliation.

“Unfortunately, what happened to [Bridges] is something we see far too often in the military — the victim of sexual harassment and assault is punished for coming forward,” Protect Our Defenders president Nancy Parrish said in a statement. “Our brave sons and daughters, brothers and sisters that risk their lives for us deserve to receive justice equal to the civilians they protect.”

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