The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

August 10, 2012

Air Force relieves commander over sex scandal

AUSTIN, Texas — A widening sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base has led to the dismissal of the top commander who oversees basic training for every new American airman, officials said Friday.

Col. Glenn Palmer was commander of basic training for the 737th training group at the Texas base, where more than a dozen military instructors in the past year have been investigated or charged with sexually assaulting recruits. Officials familiar with the decision said Palmer has been relieved from those duties, speaking on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public.

The officials said there was no indication Palmer was facing any criminal charges. In all, six instructors have been charged with offenses ranging from rape to adultery.

Investigators say more than three dozen female trainees have been victimized by male instructors at Lackland, where approximately 35,000 airmen graduate each year.

About one in five recruits are female, while most instructors are male. The most serious allegations involved an instructor sentenced to 20 years in prison last month after being convicted of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.

Before Staff Sgt. Luis Walker was sentenced in a military courtroom at Lackland, one of his alleged victims testified that the abuse left her shaken while deployed in Afghanistan and made her “a little bit more scared of everything.”

The Air Force also was set Friday to announce that Col. Eric Axelbank, commander of the entire 37th Training Wing at Lackland, also would be changing command next month. Officials told AP that Axelbank’s move was part of a normal change of command and was not related to the sex scandal.

Palmer’s dismissal comes just months after the Air Force increased his profile as the allegations mounted. He invited reporters in June to a daylong tour of Lackland, offering a rare glimpse into the base’s academy for military training instructors and making his top lieutenants available for questions. It was as intended to show the public that the Air Force had nothing to hide.

Palmer also began delivering a “neighborhood watch” speech to every new busload of recruits, telling them to immediately report sexual assaults or any hint of sexual harassment.

The first allegations began a year ago with those levied against Walker. As more trainees spoke up and the accusations became widespread, Lackland took the unusual step of halting training for an entire day in May to survey about 5,900 trainees. On a base that graduates a new class of airman every Friday for 50 of the 52 weeks in the year, Palmer called the training shut down so unprecedented that he didn’t even know whether it was possible.

Palmer isn’t the first Lackland commander removed since the scandal unfolded. Axelbank in June relieved Col. Mike Paquette, commander of the 331st Training Squadron, for what a military attorney described as a loss of confidence in Paquette’s leadership.

Lackland has about 475 military training instructors, who are the Air Force equivalent of Army drill sergeants and are assigned to turn raw recruits into airman over the course of eight weeks. More than three dozen instructors — including those facing criminal charges — have been removed from Lackland in the past year, but the Air Force says the majority of those dismissals were unrelated to the sex accusations.

———

Baldor reported from Washington.

———

Follow Paul J. Weber on Twitter: www.twitter.com/pauljweber

 

1
Text Only
National and world
  • Illinois Unemployment_Hass.jpg As U.S. job market strengthens, many don't feel it

    "If the economy is getting better, I'm not sure for whom. It certainly hasn't trickled down to me." — Douglas Hunter, who earned $14 an hour before the Great Recession and now works three days a week for $9.25 an hour, mopping floors and fixing fryers at McDonald's.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • House Obama Lawsuit.jpg Republican-led House approves lawsuit against President Obama

    Just a day before lawmakers were to begin a five-week summer recess, debate over the proposed lawsuit underscored the harshly partisan tone that has dominated the current Congress almost from its start in January 2013.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Russia Putin web.jpg Sanctions could damage Russia

    The sanctions go further than earlier penalties — which had largely targeted individuals — by broadly limiting the trade of weapons and of technology that can be used in the oil and military industries. The EU also put its capital markets off-limits to Russian state-owned banks.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Libya web.jpg Thousands flee to Tunisia to escape Libya fighting

    Many diplomats, including the U.S. ambassador, have pulled out of the country. With the interim government paralyzed, the fighting threatens the planned opening session of the newly elected parliament on Aug. 4.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obit Robert Drew web.jpg Cinema verite documentarian Robert Drew dies

    Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Obama Ukraine Russia_Hass_W.jpg GOP-led House approves lawsuit against Obama

    The suit will contend that Obama has exceeded his constitutional powers in the way he has enforced the 2010 health care law.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Texas: Gay-marriage ban best for children

    Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage allows the state to promote the birth and upbringing of children in “stable, lasting relationships,” the state’s attorney general argued Tuesday while asking a federal appeals court to reinstate the ban.

    July 30, 2014 1 Story

  • OKCupid, Facebook not alone in studying consumers

    Dating is hard.

    July 29, 2014

  • Abortion-Mississippi_Hass.jpg U.S. appeals court blocks Mississippi abortion law

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to overturn Mississippi’s 2012 law requiring abortion doctors to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • U.S. Court: Virginia marriage is for all lovers

    “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote.

    July 28, 2014

Featured Ads