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AETC seeks enduring solutions for sexual misconduct

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) -- Air Force officials are undertaking sweeping changes to improve Air Force Basic Military Training safety and security at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland according to a report released today by Gen. Edward A. Rice Jr., Air and Education Training Command commander.

The changes are the result of Air Force-led investigations that began in 2011 which uncovered a high number of alleged sexual misconduct cases involving military training instructors and trainees - ranging from unprofessional social media contact of a sexual nature to sexual assault.

"The misconduct discovered at BMT tears at the foundational trust and core values that hold the Air Force together," Rice said. "We are fully committed to enduring solutions for the BMT environment and a zero-tolerance standard for sexual misconduct."

In addition to ongoing criminal investigations, the AETC commander appointed Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward to conduct an independent, commander-directed investigation.

"The CDI was the next stage in AETC efforts to deeply and deliberately evaluate our training environments," said Rice.

The 38 CDI members conducted hundreds of interviews, surveyed more than 18,000 personnel, visited training locations, consulted with sister-service training schools, and conducted focus groups with basic trainees.

Woodward's team produced 22 findings categorized into five major areas: leadership; MTI selection and manning; MTI training and development; misconduct reporting and detection; and policy and guidance. The report also included 46 recommendations to improve those areas.

"It is important to remember ... honorable men and women throughout the Air Force continue to serve every day with distinction," Woodward said in her final report. "These dedicated Airmen build our Air Force one person at a time and remain proud of their mission and themselves. Their efforts continue to produce the world's greatest fighting force."

AETC intends to implement all or part of every recommendation. The single remaining recommendation, which suggests adjusting the length of BMT, is undergoing review in a separate forum.

Leadership: Five of the findings and 15 of the recommendations contained in Woodward's report dealt with leadership and oversight within BMT. According to the report, insufficient oversight contributed to a culture where incidents of misconduct developed.

"Fixing these problems will require leaders who foster and promote a professional culture by directly engaging with instructors and trainees every day," said Woodward. "In short, leaders must be an integral part of the training process from start to finish, building a climate of respect and discipline through action and example."

The command has already implemented several of the leadership recommendations including increasing leadership visibility and officer oversight.

Selection and Manning: The findings and associated recommendations for MTI selection and manning included decreasing the student to instructor ratio, increasing the number of female MTIs, adding additional leadership positions and providing formal guidance and requirements for the MTI screening and selection process.

"Because MTIs are particularly influential in imprinting our values on our youngest Airmen, and the workload associated with MTI duty is extremely high, candidates must be carefully screened," Woodward said. "In addition to experience in the operational Air Force, suitable applicants must meet a number of demanding requirements that indicate they are likely to succeed in this challenging special duty."

Training and Development: The existing instructor training program provides the foundation for the MTI force, but the CDI investigation indicated areas where enhanced training and professional development would be beneficial. Recommendations in this area included a "back to basics" program that emphasizes Air Force core values and NCO professional standards of conduct, as well as specialized training for BMT leadership.

AETC will address these recommendations by emphasizing leadership as a core competency in the MTI qualification training course, by increasing the focus on mentorship and by developing a BMT deliberate development program, among other things.

Reporting, Detection and Climate: The CDI review identified an MTI culture that emphasized fear and power over trust and respect. Findings in this area also highlighted a lack of consistency in accountability, poor detection of misconduct and a lack of a formalized reporting process.

Recent command emphasis has been effective in this area according to surveys. Results indicated that 93 percent of trainees felt comfortable reporting misconduct and more than 95 percent believe leadership made reasonable efforts to stop sexual assault.

Policy and Guidance: During their investigation, the CDI team reviewed policy and guidance regarding prevention, detection, and handling of sexual assault, sexual harassment and unprofessional relationships in basic military training. Recommendations in this area included reducing barriers to reporting misconduct, greater situational awareness and fair, just, and equitable enforcement of instructions, policies, and guidance regarding unprofessional conduct.

In addition to recommendations outlined in the report, Rice directed the creation of a Military Training Oversight Council designed to provide enduring guidance to BMT leadership and advise the AETC commander on strategic issues affecting safety, good order and discipline and training.

"We owe it to our Air Force, our Airmen, and our nation to get this right," said Rice. "Ensuring that we do not find ourselves looking at these same problems again is a top priority."

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