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Air Force to Replace Academy Bosses: 'Bring Me Men' Sign to Come Down

Associated Press
Tue, Mar. 25, 2003

Four top officers at the Air Force Academy will be replaced - at least two of them by women - after a series of rape reports and allegations by female cadets of an academy culture that blames victims for assaults.

"The evidence indicates now that we need to have some changes in leadership at the top," said Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo. "I think they're moving in the right direction."

Air Force Secretary James Roche briefed the Senate Armed Services Committee in private Tuesday to discuss the military's response to allegations that female cadets at the academy were ostracized and reprimanded after they reported they were raped.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., said Roche told senators that four leaders at the academy would be replaced and at least two women would be moved into top spots. She said the changes show progress, but more needs to be done.

"We don't send (cadets to the academy) to become part of a fraternity where they defend one another and protect one another against criminal activities that keep going on, so it's not just a change in leadership. It has to be a change in values from top to bottom," she said.

The Air Force has identified 56 cases of rape or sexual assault reported at the Air Force Academy since 1993. Allard says 50 cases have been reported to his office, many by women upset with the way the academy handled their complaints and a significant portion occurring within the last two years.

Roche would not answer questions as he left the Capitol on Tuesday. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner, R-Va., said personnel changes would be made, but would not elaborate.

A congressional source said the four who will be replaced are Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III, the commandant of cadets and second in charge at the academy; Col. Steve Eddy, vice superintendent; Col. Bob Eskridge, vice commander, and Col. Sue Slavec, training group commander and the highest-ranking woman at the academy.

Lt. Gen. John R. Dallager is expected to remain as superintendent and the top official at the 4,100-cadet institution until his scheduled retirement in June.

Gilbert, who declined to comment, is scheduled to leave the academy this summer after completing a standard two-year tour.

According to Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., other changes will include clustering together female cadets' dormitory rooms and providing round-the-clock security; training medical personnel how to respond to sexual assault cases; giving amnesty to people raising allegations of sexual assault; allowing only juniors and seniors at the academy to discipline freshmen; and expelling any cadet found to provide alcohol to an underage cadet.

The academy also will remove a prominent sign that says "Bring Me Men ..." from its spot near the campus courtyard and parade area.

The Air Force scheduled a news conference on Wednesday to announce the changes.

Allard said he also expects new directives affecting record-keeping and the way rapes and sexual assaults are reported at the academy north of Colorado Springs. Air Force officials were vague about the timetable for the changes, Allard said.

Roche also met Tuesday with the Air Force chief of staff, the secretaries of the Navy and Army, the superintendents of the Naval Academy and West Point and other officials.

"They discussed our agenda for change at the Air Force Academy and shared observations for best practices on the service academies," said Lt. Col. Dewey Ford, a spokesman for the Air Force.

Also on Tuesday, Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and 18 other female House members sent a letter to Roche seeking a meeting with the secretary and urging the Air Force to provide more support for victims of sexual assault and harsher sentences for the perpetrators.

Allard, Warner, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., have all called for a change in academy leadership. Warner and Allard said the change should include placing a woman in a senior leadership position.

Allard said victims are unwilling to talk with Air Force investigators while the current commanders are in place.

Two investigative teams are looking into the reports of rapes at the academy. A third team from the Department of Defense inspector general's office was to arrive this week for its own investigation.

The armed services committees in both the House and the Senate plan to hold hearings, but dates have not been set.

Allard calls for change at AFA


DENVER - Sens. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and John Warner, R-Va., are asking for a change in leadership at the Air Force Academy after a sexual assault scandal and have requested a female officer be assigned to a top job.

The letter dated Friday and addressed to Air Force Secretary James Roche was obtained by Denver's KMGH-TV Sunday. It said new leadership would provide a much-needed change in the culture of the academy.

"Despite warnings and clear indications that remedial action was needed, these officers failed to take effective action to correct these problems," the letter said.

Allard earlier rejected calls for replacing the commanders, saying it could be an excuse for resolving the real problems at the academy.

The Air Force says there have been at least 56 reports of sexual assaults of female cadets during the past decade.

Lt. Gen. John Dallager has been academy superintendent since June 2000 and was scheduled to retire this summer, and Brig. Gen. Sylvanus Taco Gilbert has been commandant since 2001.

Messages left with the academy and Air Force officials were not returned Sunday. The Air Force has said that the two would not lose their jobs because the problems predate their leadership.

Dallager and Gilbert "have been energetic in helping the Air Force leadership address current problems," according to a previous statement from Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper.

Earlier this month, Roche also said few, if any, female officers would be qualified to lead the academy, where about 15 percent of the cadets are women.

Superintendents usually are three-star generals and commandants typically have been one-star generals or colonels who get their first star while at the academy.

The Air Force has only one female three-star general, Lt. Gen. Leslie Kenne, deputy chief of staff for warfighting integration at headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Air Force has two investigations under way at the academy into allegations that female cadets were reprimanded or ostracized for reporting sexual assaults.

The Defense Department's inspector general plans to start its own investigation by the end of March.

Warner and Allard wrote the letter on behalf of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The House Armed Services Committee also was planning to look into the allegations. Rep. Tom Tancredo R-Colo., has called for the dismissal of top academy commanders.

A civilian investigation is also under way by the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office at the request of an alleged victim.

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