Leaders discuss cultural renewal at Air Force Academy

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Rick Burnham
  • Air Force Print News
A special report by the Air Force general counsel on the recent rise in sexual assault allegations at the U.S. Air Force Academy is scheduled for release at the end of March

But, the service's top leaders said March 10 that they will not wait that long to initiate needed changes.

Secretary of the Air Force Dr. James G. Roche and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper recently spoke with reporters from the Washington Post. During the interview, the leaders said there are immediate changes that will diminish the climate they say is in part responsible for the rash of accusations.

Among the changes, female cadets will be grouped in a specific area while still keeping squadron integrity, and enhanced counseling services will be offered for assault victims who come forward with complaints.

Investigators are looking into as many as 56 reports of possible sexual assault in the past 10 years, the secretary said, including allegations of rape.

If precautionary measures fail, the secretary said, it is imperative that assault victims have the appropriate resources to seek justice, an avenue that both men fear has not always been in place.

"We will have counselors in place to track the progress of cases and provide advice for the victims," he said. "There will also be changes in how complaints are investigated to guard against attempts at undermining the credibility of victims."

Those attempts include bringing up school infractions such as drinking or socializing with upperclassmen, Jumper said. He added that confidentiality will be an important part of any new set of protocols.

Equally important, Jumper said, is establishing a feeling among cadets that they can approach the leadership system at any point and know that their welfare is taken into account.

"We want them to know that they will be put into a process that is going to be helpful to their case," he said. "That is one of our first orders of business, and there are changes in the works that will ensure these things take place."

Incoming cadets -- both male and female -- can expect greater educational emphasis on preventing of sexual assault, the general added.

"Upon entering the academy, all cadets will be put through a directed course of indoctrination that talks about this problem," Jumper said.

An important element in virtually every Air Force organization -- the knowledge and experience of senior enlisted leaders -- will be used more effectively at the academy.

"Our enlisted people at the academy obviously do not have chain of command authority," Roche said. "But General Jumper and our Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, Gerald Murray, were able to have some very productive meetings with our enlisted people there and brought a lot of good ideas home about the situation."

All of the changes at the academy will be designed to create a climate that produces the Air Force leaders of the future, the general said.

"We need to make absolutely sure that everyone at the academy thinks of each other as brothers and sisters," he said, "and that they can focus on the important job of preparing themselves to lead our Air Force when they are called on to do so."