Conduct Unbecoming of Commanders

In my last blog post (The Day after Memorial Day), I spoke of the best way to honor those who have fallen, in the line of duty.  The most fitting tribute for the dead is support for the living.  Employment, or lack thereof, was the primary focus of the piece.  I encourage any who have not read it, to do so.  Our brave men and women need our support in finding meaningful work, and I further encourage you all to take an active role, in whatever way you can.

Our men and women are experiencing a different sort of trauma of late.  Thus, we have been asking ourselves whether the military has a sexual assault problem.  I dare say we do.  An estimated 26,000 service members experienced “unwanted sexual contact” in 2012.  That is an increase of 7,000 from the previous year.  “Unwanted sexual contact” includes rape, attempted rape, and unwanted sexual touching.  Fewer than half of the reported cases involved alcohol.

One might assume that this is a female problem.  One would be dead wrong.  According to the Pentagon’s most recent annual report:  12,100 women and 13,900 men suffered some form of sexual assault.  There are approximately 1.2 million men and 200,000 women serving in our military.  This means that while female victims bear the greater proportion of assaults, this is not a gender specific issue.  The plight of male victims is greatly overlooked.

This news angered many of us.  Congressional Hearings followed.  The Joint Chiefs of Staff testified before the Armed Services Committee.  A particularly contentious debate ensued over the idea of removing prosecution from the chain of command.  Senator Kirsten Gillibrand feels that this action would make it easier for victims to report an assault.  Senator McCaskill explained the necessity of differentiating between a human resource problem and criminal activity.

But a congressional hearing wouldn’t be a congressional hearing without a dash of ignorance.

The young folks coming in to each of your services are anywhere from 17 to 22 or 23.  Gee whiz, the hormone level created by nature sets in place the possibility for these types of things to occur.  So we’ve got to be very careful how we address it on our side.  – Sen. Saxby Chambliss

Gee whiz???  What is this, high school?  Yes, we do need to be very careful how we address it.  Sexual assault is not equivalent to teenagers out behind the bleachers making out.  Young adult men, all over the globe, experience hormone increases.  They don’t become rapists.

Mr. Chairman, I’d just add a letter, a document here that was given to me from Morality in the Media. Pat Truman used to be in the Department of Justice. I knew him when he was there. He points out that, a picture here of a newsstand and an Air Force base exchange with, you know, sexually explicit magazines being sold. So, we live in a culture that’s awash in sexual activity. If it’s not sold on base, it’s right off base. There are videos and so forth that can be obtained, and it creates some problems, I think.  – Sen. Jeff Sessions

Sexually explicit magazines???  That is obviously the reason for sexual assaults.  Well…as long as you overlook the well-documented fact that rape is not about sexual gratification.  Rapists seek power and control over their victims.

Sadly, traumatized service members are victimized twice.  Once by the perpetrator, and again, by their chain of command.  A commander is responsible for the discipline and readiness of his or her troops.  Commanders have the option to stop an investigation, reduce a sentence, or even set aside a conviction.  Abuse goes unreported because no commander wants to be held accountable for a troop accused of rape.  It could affect his ability to be promoted!

Consider the case involving Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms, who overturned a court-martial conviction of an officer for sexual assault.

Then, there is the case of Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin.  He tossed the conviction of a star fighter pilot based on information considered inadmissible by the court.

Sailor, Brian Lewis; Marine, Stacey Thompson; and specialist, BriGette McCoy are among the abused.  Unfortunately, they must rely on commanders like Lt. Col. Jeff Krusinski, who is accused of sexual assault, himself.  His actions are defended by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh, who believes “hook up” culture is to blame.

The stories of these victims are heart wrenching and angering.  The behavior of their commanders is intolerable and unacceptable.  While senior members of all five branches claim a commitment to addressing this issue, they are strongly opposed to stripping commanders of their power.

They [commanders] are responsible for setting command climate.  – Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary, USMC Commandant’s staff judge advocate

You want us to believe that leadership should be held accountable, and that a commander’s authority shouldn’t be restricted?

Then, do your damned job, gentlemen.  Your conduct, up to this point, has been unbecoming.

One thought on “Conduct Unbecoming of Commanders

  1. Pingback: This Civilian | Everblog

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