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March 18, 2005
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Stars & Stripes, European Edition
ARLINGTON, Va. - The Air Force is facing a suspected cheating scandal involving the Weighted Airmen Promotion System test for enlisted airmen, a large part of what determines who will advance in rank and who will fall behind.
“More than 10 and fewer than 20” cases are suspected, according to Capt. David Small, an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon. He refused to give a more precise number, “because investigations are still under way” by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
The investigations began last May, Small said, and three airmen are facing trial.
The case that has progressed the furthest involves Master Sgt. J. Abdur Rahim Saafir, who is assigned to the 469th Air Base Group Commander's Support Staff at Rhein-Main Air Force Base in Germany.
Saafir, a mission support flight superintendent, has been accused of possessing and distributing controlled WAPS testing material.
In January 2004, Saafir was named U.S. Air Forces in Europe personnel manager of the year, in part because he saved the Air Force more than $15,000 in travel costs in 2003 by having the enlisted promotion tests held on Rhein-Main instead of Ramstein Air Base, Germany, nearly two hours away.
Saafir was charged Feb. 3 and on March 8 with Article 81, conspiracy, and Article 92, failure to obey a lawful general regulation, according to Capt. Stacy Orlowsky, a 469th ABG spokeswoman.
Brig. Gen. Rosanne Bailey, the 435th Air Base Wing Commander, has appointed an investigating officer under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to investigate the charges, Orlowsky said.
The Article 32 process often is described as the U.S. military's counterpart to the civilian grand jury, although in the military version of the process, the accused servicemember also is allowed legal representation.
The other two cases are at Schriever and Peterson Air Force bases in Colorado.
At Schriever, Senior Master Sgt. Horace Jordan of the 50th Comptroller Squadron will face a special court-martial set for March 30, according to spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Kate Rust.
A special court-martial is more serious than a summary court-martial, but less serious than a general court-martial, which requires an Article 32 process to convene.
Jordan is accused of unspecified actions that “didn't take place here,” Rust said.
Jordan was named financial management senior NCO of the year while working in the 35th Comptroller Squadron as a master sergeant at Misawa Air Base in Japan in December 2002, according to a Pacific Air Forces news release dated Dec. 11, 2002.
At Peterson, a first lieutenant was given an Article 15 “in the last few weeks” for misconduct involving WAPS, according to base spokesman Tech. Sgt. Michael Phillips.
Article 15 “covers several offenses,” and “is a tool commanders can use in lieu of court-martial proceedings,” Phillips said.
Because an Article 15 is a nonjudicial punishment, the Air Force is not allowed to release more information.
In addition to those three cases, “there are multiple individuals involved across many different bases,” Small told Stripes on Thursday.
Until the investigations are complete, there is no way of knowing how many promotions were affected by the suspected cheating, Small said.
But once the investigations and any resulting legal proceedings are complete, Air Force officials will notify any airmen who may have been unfairly affected and provide them with information on how they can be considered for retroactive promotion, according to Ken Schwartz, chief of the Air Force's Military Testing Section in the Air Force Personnel Center's Enlisted Promotions Office, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas.
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