Yet another U.S. military service member tasked with preventing sexual abuses is under investigation for sexual assault. This marks the latest episode in a troubling trend for the Defense Department, prompting Secretary Chuck Hagel to institute a sweeping reform across the military.
The U.S. Army announced Tuesday that a sergeant first class assigned to III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas, is currently under investigation for "pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates." This comes exactly a week after the Air Force's chief officer for sexual assault prevention was arrested for alleged sexual assault.
In response, Hagel has directed all service branches to re-train, re-credential and re-screen all service members performing sexual assault prevention and response, as well as military recruiters, the Pentagon says.
The secretary met with Army Secretary John McHugh Tuesday morning to discuss the investigation.
"I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger and disappointment over these troubling allegations, and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply," said George Little, a spokesman for the secretary.
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command is conducting the investigation of the soldier, assigned as an "equal opportunity" adviser and Sexual Assault Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention coordinator. The soldier's name has yet to be released.
No charges have yet been filed, but the sergeant first class has been suspended from his position.
Air Force Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, the former head of the Air Force's sexual assault prevention and response branch, was arrested in the early morning hours of Sunday, March 5, after allegedly groping a woman in the parking lot of a restaurant in Arlington, Va.
This news came less than 24 hours before Hagel announced a new plan to combat sexual assaults – one of this chief initiatives since taking office less than three months ago.
"We're particularly disappointed because this alleged incident occurred here, at the headquarters, the heart and the main leadership of our institution," Hagel said of the sexual battery charges against Krusinski.
"No one in this building is happy about what happened. We're disappointed, but that doesn't fix the problem," he said. "Our men and women around the world who give themselves and their families certainly must expect more, and deserve more."
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., has been one of the most vocal lawmakers on the issue of sexual assaults in the military since a top general at Aviano Air Base, Italy, dismissed a guilty verdict late last year against a pilot stationed there.
She said Tuesday that the military must re-evaluate who it puts in positions of oversight for sexual assaults.
"Are folks filling these jobs who aren't succeeding elsewhere? Or are these jobs being given to our best leaders?" McCaskill said in a written statement. "These allegations only add to the mounting evidence of the need to change our military justice system to better hold perpetrators accountable and protect survivors of sexual assault."