Since 2009, LacklandAir Force Base has been in the media regarding alleged sexual misconduct andviolence between several instructors and trainees.
On Thursday,Feb. 14, Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc was sentenced to 30 months of confinementafter he was found guilty of eight of the nine charges brought against himfollowing the ongoing scandal.
The previousweek, the Air Force stated, “the number of victims in the scandal had risenfrom 59 to 62 recruits and technical training students, all but three of whomare women.”
Lackland isconsidered the gateway to the Air Force, as it is the only basic training basein the country, and every man or woman who enlists in the United States AirForce must go through the San Antonio facility. Over 36,000 airmen graduateeach year under the basic training commander’s leadership.
Last year, newlyappointed Commander of Basic Training Col. Deborah Liddick told reporters at theFort Worth Star-Telegram, “I will ensure the airmen under my commandmaintain the highest standards possible, that the standards are enforced andfolks are held accountable.”
The San AntonioExpress-News reported that, “(LeBlanc) insisted that when he had sex witha woman two days after she graduated from basic training, it was consensual andtheir relationship continued.”
The woman, inturn, stated that the sexual misconduct with Leblanc was out of fear of hisauthority and fear for her career. According to the Express-News, the woman, referredto as Airman 1, said that she often invented reasons to end their relations. “Iremember looking up at a clock on the wall and (saying) it was time for me toleave,” said Airman 1. “I told him I needed to get on the bus.”
Airman 1 concededthat she never denied or resisted LeBlanc in any of their sexual encounters. Whenprosecutor Lt. Col. Shawn Speranza asked Airman 1 why this was, she said, itwas “because I didn’t feel I had the option to make a choice in thatmatter; you never said no to an MTI.”
Anotherinstructor, Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio, was, according to the Express-News, “clearedof sexual assault, but found guilty of having an unprofessional sexualrelationship, violating a no-contact order and obstructing justice, (resultingin) one year in jail and a bad-conduct discharge.”
These recentallegations and charges found the Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Welsh,speaking before a House oversight committee. Welsh acknowledged that the AirForce has areas that need to adjust to the changing culture, which may havekept victims from coming forward with their stories.
“Why, onwhat was undoubtedly the worst day of a victim’s life, did they not turn to usfor help?” Welsh said during testimony before the House Armed ServicesCommittee. “We are missing something fundamental in the human-to-humaninteraction that will allow them to feel safe enough to come to us andreport.”
According to theHuffington Post, Welsh also said he has “stressed to the Air Force’s officercorps and senior enlisted ranks the importance of eliminating sexual misconduct.”In keeping with this statement, Welsh issued a “Letter to Airmen” this monththat said many images, songs and stories that are obscene or vulgar are notpart of the Air Force heritage.