Retaliatory culture has not changed in military, ex-prosecutor says

Published: Monday, December 11, 2017 @ 4:35 PM


            In this May 15, 2017 file photo, Air Force Academy Cadets pass in review after Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin assumed command of the AFA cadet wing at a ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.
In this May 15, 2017 file photo, Air Force Academy Cadets pass in review after Brig. Gen. Kristin Goodwin assumed command of the AFA cadet wing at a ceremony at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Former female Air Force Academy cadets who withdrew after they said they faced retaliation when they reported they were sexually assaulted shows a need for a culture change throughout the military, a former prosecutor said.

“What it says about the climate is that despite all the military’s promise that they are taking this seriously and they are there to support survivors, the reality is that when a person is sexually assaulted in the military and then (reports it), whether they are at the academy or whether they are on active duty, the odds are that their career is going to be over,” said Don Christensen, president of the advocacy group Protect Our Defenders and a retired colonel who was a chief Air Force prosecutor.

“They’ll be subjected to pervasive retaliation both by their peers and by their superiors,” he said.

During a six-month investigation, CBS This Morning reported Monday it interviewed more than a dozen current or former cadets who said they faced retaliation after they reported sexual assaults to the academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Two of those interviewed Monday were women who were cadets but dropped out, and two current cadets whose identities were disguised. One of those interviewed said while she was subject to continued harassment after filing a report, her alleged attacker graduated at the prestigious school that produces Air Force officers.

Wright-Patterson assaults rise

Last month, the Defense Department released data for every major U.S. military installation in the world that showed Wright-Patterson Air Force Base had 30 reports of sexual assaults in 2016, nearly double the number from the previous two years. The Miami Valley base, which has an estimated 27,000 employees, recorded 17 assaults in both 2013 and 2014 and 19 cases in fiscal year 2013.

RELATED: Sexual assaults reported at Wright-Patt doubles in the past two years

The Defense Department data also showed the Air Force Academy had a higher number of sexual assaults than any other Air Force installation. The service academy had 44 reports in 2016, the Pentagon reported.

“Number one, they need to change the culture,” Christensen said. “This isn’t just the Air Force Academy, this is all the service academies.

“The military, as with anything they address (about) this issue, is more empty promises,” Christensen said. “On the one hand, they tell Congress that they’ve got it. On the other hand, behind the scenes, they support the people that have committed the rapes and force out the survivors.”

Meade Warthen, an Air Force Academy spokesman, told this outlet academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria’s would give a response to the investigation Tuesday on CBS This Morning. Warthen also sent this statement:

“What I can tell you in the interim, is that the Air Force Academy is deeply concerned by the allegations regarding the treatment of sexual assault victims at the Academy,” the statement said. “Dozens of professionals like Special Victims Counselors, Mental Health Professionals, Victim Advocates and more dedicate themselves day in and day out to the service of caring for the victims of this horrible crime. But the Academy is also focused on the root cause and believes creating and sustaining a climate of dignity and respect is absolutely essential to ending the scourge of sexual assault. One assault is too many and we will never rest until the number is zero.”

Retaliation complaints

Christensen cited a Department of Defense investigation that showed one in three women who have filed a sexual assault report leave the military within a year. Further, he said, about 60 percent of those who have said they experienced harassment or assault reported instances of retaliation since 2010.

RELATED: 32 sexual assaults reported at Wright-Patt AFB in 4-year period

“It’s not getting any better,” he said. “It’s probably getting worse and the retaliation is as bad as ever. The leadership knows about the retaliation and does nothing about it. That to me is their inability to speak out strongly and to hold people accountable. It sends a clear message to survivors, report at your own peril.”

In a statement last month, Wright-Patterson responded to the sharp increase in reported assaults.

“We cannot identify any significant trends in the increase,” spokeswoman Marie Vanover said in a Nov. 20 email. “While each case has its own unique attribute, the number is not indicative of the number of assaults that occurred at Wright-Patt. There are many factors that go into the numbers; including some cases accounting for more than one incident.

“We’re dedicated to fostering an environment of respect by standing against anyone who commits sexual assault and supporting survivors, whenever and wherever it may have occurred,” the statement said.

Christensen has said in his more than two decades of military judicial experience the “vast majority” of reported assaults occurred on or near the installation where they were first recorded.

2016 Air Force installation sex assault cases

U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.: 44

Kadena Air Base, Japan: 37

Ramstein Air Base, Germany: 36

Travis Air Force Base, Calif: 34

Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.: 33

Wright-Patterson: 30

Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.: 27

Source: Department of Defense

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Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close today

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 10:00 AM
Updated: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 2:14 AM

Major Wright-Patt gate will temporarily close

A major gateway will close at Wright-Patterson today for maintenance, impacting the travel of thousands of commuters.

Gate 19B off National Road will be closed from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m., according to base spokesman Daryl Mayer.

More than 5,700 inbound drivers travel through the entrance and nearly 6,300 drive off base through the gate every work day.

Crews will work on “routine maintenance” at the gateway, Mayer said.

RELATED: Wright-Patt gateway to close as part of security upgrade

“Since that (gate) is open 24/7 normally, they never have a chance to work on it,” he said.

Motorists may use Gates 1B off Springfield Street and Gate 22B off Interstate 675 as alternatives, according to Wright-Patterson.

Gate 19B had a major makeover last year with $1.3 million in upgrades that added overhead canopies, more guard booths and a barrier system, Wright-Patterson has said.

RELATED: Security concerns prompt Wright-Patt to close major gateway

The base closed Gate 26A off Ohio 235 because of security concerns this month. The gate, which had more than 5,000 vehicles a day, remains closed.

A new $10.5 million replacement gate, combining the current Gate 26A and the commercial truck entrance at Gate 16A off Ohio 444, is due to open late next year.

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Air Force urged to pick Wright-Patterson for hundreds more jobs

Published: Thursday, April 19, 2018 @ 5:10 PM


            The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
            Ty Greenlees
The F-35A Lightning II performs at the Vectren Dayton Air Show in June, 2017. TY GREENLEES / STAFF(Ty Greenlees)

Wright-Patterson could add 400 jobs if Air Force leaders are persuaded by Ohio’s congressional delegation to locate a F-35 stealth fighter office to the Miami Valley base.

The Defense Department and the Air Force have not said how many bases are in contention for the F-35 Product Hybrid Support Integrator Organization. But Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Phil Parker said Wright-Patterson was likely “a top contender” for the Air Force jobs.

“I think it would be a real plus to our continued importance and growth inside the fence and even outside the fence with some of the contractors that might play a role in that development,” he said.

“I can’t speak to that it’s a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly makes a lot of sense with the capability we have” and the military and civilian workforce.

RELATED: Wright-Patt a contender to manage stealth fighter program

Parker said the Dayton Development Coalition is actively involved in working to attract the new jobs. Michael Gessel, Coalition vice president of federal programs, said he could not comment publicly.

Pentagon leaders have concurred with a report to create two separate offices — one for the Air Force and the other for the Navy and Marine Corps — to manage three different versions of the F-35. The Joint Program Office in Crystal City, Md., manages the program today which has been under development since 2001.

Wright-Patterson has an F-35 technical division office, but the additional jobs would add more responsibility for oversight and management.

“Wright-Patt is probably the only base in the entire Air Force where every single skill and competency relevant to the F-35 is already resident,” said Loren B. Thompson, a senior defense analyst with the Virginia-based Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant.

RELATED: Spending plan could give boost to Wright-Patt

In a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson, the Ohio congressional delegation cited Wright-Patterson’s technical workforce, area universities and command headquarters among key factors to bring the jobs to the region.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rob Portman, R-Ohio, along with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, were among those who signed the letter.

“First, we make a good case and Wright-Patt is … the ideal place for this,” Brown, co-chairman of the Senate Air Force Caucus, said in a brief interview Thursday.

The congressional delegation cited the acquisition headquarters of the Air Force Materiel Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, which manages aircraft programs, the Air Force Research Laboratory, which develops new aircraft technologies, and the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which handles foreign sales, among reasons to locate the office at the base.

In a recent interview, Turner, whose district spans Wright-Patterson and is the chairman of the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee, said the base should “bode well” in the competition because of an experienced workforce managing aircraft programs and offices for foreign military sales.

RELATED: Wright-Patterson to get new base commander

Wright-Patterson has a “long legacy … of working on advanced aircraft” and is close to Washington, D.C., he added.

“It will be an easy transition if it comes to Dayton, Ohio,” he said then.

The Fighters and Bombers Directorate, which oversees management programs such as the F-15, F-16 and F-22, and the B-1, B-2 and B-52, is headquartered at Wright-Patterson.

The base is the largest single-site employer in Ohio with more than 27,000 civilian employees and military personnel. The base has an estimated economic impact of more $4 billion a year.

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AF Thunderbirds return to practice, but more shows could be canceled

Published: Wednesday, April 18, 2018 @ 5:02 PM


            The U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds in the diamond formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show on Saturday, July 23, 2011. STAFF FILE PHOTO
            Ty Greenlees
The U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds in the diamond formation at the Vectren Dayton Air Show on Saturday, July 23, 2011. STAFF FILE PHOTO(Ty Greenlees)

The Air Force Thunderbirds return to training over the Nevada desert Wednesday, but have not announced a date the demonstration team will return to the air show circuit, the team’s leader said.

The team had suspended flights and canceled public performances since a tragic April 4 crash killed Maj. Stephen “Cajun” Del Bagno during practice over the Nevada Test and Training Range.

RELATED: Thunderbirds cancel more air show performances after deadly crash

“While our hearts are still heavy with the loss of our wingman Cajun, we know he’d want us back in the air and preparing to recruit, retain and inspire once more,” Lt. Col. Kevin Walsh, team leader, said in a statement Wednesday.

“These flights will focus on maintaining our team’s proficiency with the demanding manuevers of our air demonstration,” Walsh added. “They will also strengthen our confidence following a trying two weeks for the squadron.”

At the same time, the team will support a “robust investigation process” to ensure “the highest level of safety in our operations,” Walsh said.

He cautioned more cancellations of upcoming air shows are possible.

So far, the team canceled shows at March Air Reserve Base in California, in Lakeland, Fla., and upcoming “Wings Over Columbus” air show April 21-22 at Columbus Air Force Base, Miss.

A memorial service was recently held for the fallen aviator.

RELATED: Excessive speed blamed for Thunderbird crash in Dayton

he crash was the most serious since a Thunderbird jet flipped over and ran off a runway at Dayton International Airport last June during a familiarization flight, trapping two crewmen until they were rescued by first responders.

An Air Force investigation determined excessive speed and landing too far down on a wet runway contributed to the incident.

The mishap injured then team narrator and F-16 pilot Capt. Erik Gonsalves, who was hospitalized for leg injuries, and destroyed the $29.2 million fighter jet on June 23, according to the Air Force. A second crewman who was a backseat passenger in the F-16D jet was uninjured, the Air Force said.

The Thunderbirds are scheduled to appear at the Vectren Dayton Air Show during the 2019 show season.

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A fair with a flavor: 17 countries part of Wright-Patt festival

Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2018 @ 4:14 PM


            Colorfully dressed in costumes, performers gathered at a past international fair of the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group. CONTRIBUTED
Colorfully dressed in costumes, performers gathered at a past international fair of the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group. CONTRIBUTED

A party in Dayton had an international flavor Tuesday.

People from 17 countries and more than 120 volunteers came together to celebrate the Wright-Patterson International Spouses Group’s International Fair at the Holiday Inn in Fairborn.

The cultures spanned Japan to the Spain, and Bali to the Philippines, among other places around the globe.

“We do it as thank you to the community for helping us to adjust to the local area and it’s a friendship gathering,” said Inma Kusnierek, of Springfield, co-chairwoman of the group and who is originally from Spain. “It’s just grown and grown and grown.”

Most of the attendees have ties to the Air Force Security Assistance and Cooperation Directorate, which processes foreign military sales at Wright-Patterson.

The funds raised from the event pay the tuition of one of the spouses or high school graduates to attend college, she said.

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