A Female Commander for Scandal-Plagued Air Force Training Center
Almost every person who enlists in the U.S. Air Force receives his or her “basic training” at the sprawling Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
I was there in 1958. I don’t remember much.
As a brand new, young immigrant with little knowledge of the customs and rigors of basic training and equally little knowledge of the English language, I had my hands full just trying to keep my head above water — just trying to “survive.”
I don’t remember female “basic airmen” or, as they called them in those days, aspiring WAF’s — Women in the Air Force.
And I certainly don’t remember any rumors or reports of any of these female recruits being sexually assaulted, or even harassed by their male instructors.
During the past year, however, there have been numerous reports of sexual harassment incidents, including rape and adultery involving male instructors and female recruits.
One instructor was sentenced to 20 years in prison in July after being convicted of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.
According to the Stars and Stripes, earlier this week, another instructor was sentenced to a year in prison and received a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty to having sex with a trainee. In total six male instructors have been charged with such crimes, and there are others still under investigation.
As the scandal grew, two (male) commanders have been relieved.
Saturday, the Air Force selected a woman to become the next commander of the 737th Training Group at Lackland, a training center where about 35,000 airmen graduate every year, including about 7,000 women and where most of the instructors are still male.
The new commander, Col. Deborah Liddick (above), is presently the chief of the maintenance division at the former Randolph Air Force Base. She is scheduled to take command Friday.
The Air Force announced Liddick’s appointment in a statement that didn’t mention the sex scandal or highlight choosing a woman to lead a unit where the number of women identified by military investigators as potential victims is approaching 40.
Several groups and individuals have urged Congress to hold hearings on the Lackland scandal.
U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, visited Lackland last week and said he believed the Air Force was being diligent in its investigation. In August, the White House pick for Air Force chief of staff was held up while Congress pressed the service for answers about the scandal, according to the Stripes.
The head of one of those advocacy groups, Nancy Parrish, said, “Hopefully, Col. Deborah Liddick will do a great job,” and added that what’s occurring at Lackland is part of “a much broader problem endemic throughout all the services,” according to the Stripes.