For the second time this month, a uniformed military official whose job was to prevent sex abuse has come under investigation for a sex crime.
Agents from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division were looking into allegations that an Army sergeant first class at Fort Hood, Texas, sexually abused females in his unit and ran a prostitution ring on the base, Pentagon officials said Tuesday night.
Officials said that the soldier, who was not identified, had been assigned as an Equal Opportunity Adviser and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program coordinator at Fort Hood with the Army’s III Corps when the allegations surfaced.
No charges have yet been filed, but the sergeant was “immediately suspended from all duties by the chain of command once the allegations were brought to the command's attention,” the Defense Department said in a statement.
The CID investigation was looking into allegations that the sergeant was involved in “abusive sexual contact, pandering, assault and maltreatment of subordinates” in his oversight of a unit of about 800 soldiers.
The allegations against the sergeant surfaced a week after Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, branch chief of the Air Force’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office, was arrested and charged by Arlington County, Va., police for allegedly being drunk and groping a woman in a parking lot near a strip club one mile from the Pentagon.
Krusinski has been charged with sexual battery, and a hearing on his criminal case has been set for July. The charges against Krusinski rocked the Air Force, which was already dealing with numerous courts-martial stemming from the alleged abuse of female recruits at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Two Air Force three-star generals have also overturned two convictions on sexual assault charges
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Secretary John McHugh conferred Tuesday morning on the allegations against the Fort Hood sergeant and issued statements condemning his alleged behavior.
George Little, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, said that Hagel directed McHugh to "fully investigate this matter rapidly, to discover the extent of these allegations and to ensure that all of those who might be involved are dealt with appropriately."
“I cannot convey strongly enough [Hagel’s] frustration, anger, and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply,” Little said.
Army officials said the service is working toward following Hagel’s directive to “re-train, re-credential and re-screen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters.”
Pentagon officials referred to remarks McHugh made earlier this month before the Defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on the growing incidents of sexual assault in the ranks.
"This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built. To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is really heart-wrenching and sickening,” McHugh told Congress.
McHugh spoke after the Defense Department issued a report estimating that as many as 26,000 servicemembers may have been sexually assaulted last year, based on survey results.
Of those, fewer than 3,400 reported the incident, and nearly 800 of them received medical treatment and counseling but declined to file formal complaints against their alleged attackers.
The sex abuse scandals in the military have prompted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and other lawmakers to call for changes in the military justice system that would remove commanders from exercising their authority to overturn convictions in sex cases.
Gillibrand issued a statement in light of the latest allegations coming from Fort Hood that another sexual abuse prevention leader has been charged with a sex crime.
"To say this report is disturbing would be a gross understatement. For the second time in a week, we are seeing someone who is supposed to be preventing sexual assault being investigated for committing that very act,” she said.
Gillibrand, who chairs the personnel subcommittee on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the military has “to do better by the men and women serving and assure them that they will not be attacked by their colleagues.”
Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said the allegations against the Fort Hood sergeant, following on the Krusinski arrest, had “deeply shaken” his confidence in the military’s ability to deal with sexual assault within its ranks.
"I have a granddaughter in the U.S. Army,” McKeon said in a statement. “We can prepare them to face the enemy abroad. But we cannot, nor will not, tolerate an enemy within. I will not be satisfied with any response to this crime that fails to hold both the perpetrator and the chain of command responsible.”
"As I said to our new Brigadier General Corps when I spoke to them about two weeks ago, 'You can do everything from this point forward in your military career perfectly, but if you fail on this, you have failed the Army,' " he said.
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