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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

Basic instinct eats U.S. Army from within

The chief of Space and Missile Defense Command in Fort Greely (AK) was charged with adultery. Reportedly, officers of the military base had sexual relationships with female soldiers under their command. According to the charter of the American army, consensual sexual relationships with subordinates are also seen as a breach of the charter.

Fort Greely is located near the town of Delta Junction, Alaska. The fort is used as the main test ground for ballistic missiles.

Due to a sharp increase in cases of sexual violence in the military, the U.S. Defense Department expressed its interest in taking tough measures to struggle against such cases, up to criminal prosecution. In turn, the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also called on the military and army cadets to cultivate relationships of respect and dignity. The States has a rich court practice of cases of sexual harassment. How will the story end this time?

Sex scandals in the U.S. Army - random phenomenon or a trend? 

Currently, the number of women serving in the U.S. Army makes up about 15 percent of all service people. In 2010, women were allowed to serve on submarines, which means that from now on they have a right to serve in the army in all types of troops. A scandal in Tailhook (voluntary association supporting the U.S. Air Force), which occurred in 1991, became a landmark event in terms of gender relations for military and civilian women. After the scandal, the U.S. military introduced staff training to increase sexual awareness of personnel. The aftermath of the scandal was so far-reaching that the scandal still echoes in the army still. The infamous story destroyed the careers of many people. The trial received extensive coverage in the media, widespread public attention and questioned the effectiveness of the American system of military justice.

The Tailhook scandal occurred at the annual symposium of the Association in Las Vegas. As many as 83 women and seven men stated that they became victims of sexual harassment and assaults on the part of 100 military and naval officers. Inspector General of the Pentagon and the Naval Investigative Service questioned more than 1,000 of 5,000 participants. Seventy percent of the cases were withdrawn, whereas the remaining offenders were punished just slightly. However, many participants of the Tailhook scandal were unable to build their careers. The scandal itself showed a negative influence on all participants, even if they were not brought to justice.

The failure of the military to punish the perpetrators more strictly triggered the wrath of the public, especially on the part of feminists. They showered American defense officials with allegations of improper interrogation tactics and collection of evidence. In return, politicians organized a program of anonymous reports of sexual harassment and assaults. Eventually, the U.S. Navy terminated its ties with Tailhook completely.

In 1996, a series of cases of sexual violence and complaints of discrimination in various types of armed forces broke out again. Several female recruits of the range ground in Aberdeen complained of sexual harassment on the part of their  instructors. The Army opened a hotline, on which soldiers could anonymously report cases of sexual discrimination, harassment or attacks. The accused persons were removed from their posts for the time of the investigation. The story ended with 12 indictments. Staff Sergeant Delmar Simpson was convicted of rape and sentenced to 25 years in a military prison. Major General John Longhauser, the commander of the Aberdeen base, was forced to resign and retire. Army Maj. Gen. McKinney, appeared before the court martial with charges on 22 counts. Six women, who worked with McKinney, appeared as defendants. McKinney's lawyers clamed that the charges were discriminatory. The defense claimed that white officers of the same rank, who committed similar crimes, were left unpunished, while McKinney, being a black man, was a defendant.

The process ended with a report for the general public, which stated that sexual harassment and discrimination in the military were commonplace, regardless of the victim's race, rank or gender. Therefore, the U.S. Army promised to add an extra week to basic military training to focus on gender issues and declare its "zero tolerance" to sexual discrimination.

The U.S. Air Force tries to struggle against sexual harassment too. The chief of the department for the prevention of sexual violence, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krasinski, was arrested in Arlington on similar charges and removed from office. The Lt. Col. wanted to feel the breasts and backside of a woman on a parking lot. Krasinski was arrested at the time when the Pentagon and Air Force had already found themselves under scrutiny due to several high-profile incidents of sexual harassment.

More recently, fighter pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson, a former Inspector General of the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base, was convicted of rape and sentenced to a year in prison, forfeiture of wages and dismissal from Air Force.

The scandal at the military base in San Antonio's Lackland also rocked the entire country. The base has about 500 military instructors, who train about 35,000 pilots. About one in every five recruits is a female, while most instructors are men. The results of the investigation revealed multiple incidents of power abuse on the part of instructors. As many as 32 of them were engaged in inappropriate or coercive sexual relationships with 59 women recruits. Even three men acted as victims on the case. Six instructors were convicted under articles ranging from rape and ending with informal relationships. Two were sentenced to non-judicial punishment; 15 people remain under investigation.

The struggle of the U.S. military against sexual harassment 

For many years, U.S. military leaders claim that the army has "zero tolerance" to sexual abuse. The epidemic of crimes on the grounds of sexual violence does not abate. Rather, this plague infects all types of troops and units. Arrests, investigations, Congressional hearings, speeches, reports and recommendations never end at this point. A documentary titled "The Invisible War" was released in the United States in 2012. Any parent would think twice before sending their  daughter to serve in the Army of the United States after watching the film.

Legislators and Congressmen express extreme disappointment in the lack of severe punishment to prevent sexual misconduct. A recent report from the Pentagon stated that as many as 26 000 military people fell victims of unwanted sexual contacts in 2012, which marked a considerable increase in comparison with the previous year. Even though virtually all recruits undergo ethical and behavioral training, cases of sexual violence continue to occur.

Cultural and ethical nuances of military service related to sexual behavior among military men and women need to be studied further. This is a job for military psychologists. The shortage of statistical data and indifference to the psychological well being of victims is destructive. U.S. regulators are supposed to work together with the army to eliminate this problem, rather than expect that the army will cope with the problem alone.

Sergei Vasilenko


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