The Air Force has released a report following a six-month investigation, substantiating 16 allegations against eight officers at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., who failed to prevent or investigate sexual harassment, condoned or refused to remove sexually offensive material and tolerated on-duty alcohol consumption.
The Air Force Times reported that six of the officers who were assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw have received disciplinary action, including letters of admonishment or counseling and removal from assignments, according to Air Combat Command. The case against a seventh officer is pending. One lieutenant colonel left active duty before the investigation was completed, in May. The report, which contained 38 allegations, does not name the officers, and Air Combat Command, citing privacy issues, also would not name them.
The 328-page report, released Oct. 25, stems from a highly publicized Inspector General complaint filed last year by Tech. Sgt. Jennifer Smith, an aviation resource management specialist at Shaw. Smith told the Times in a December interview that she had quietly endured sexual harassment and assault during her 17-year Air Force career because victims who speak out often are retaliated against while their perpetrators go unpunished.
Smith’s 2012 complaint was at least partially responsible for December’s servicewide health and welfare inspection, a sweep of all workspaces and public areas for images, calendars, magazines and other materials that objectify women.
According to the Times report, squadron commanders and at least one group commander at Shaw gave the appearance they tolerated offensive materials in the workplace, the investigating officer concluded.
And, according to the report, despite regulations against it, officers within the 55th Fighter Squadron sometimes drank during duty hours, a practice witnessed by most of the enlisted airmen interviewed.
While Smith’s complaint centered on the 55th, two other squadrons in the wing, the 79th Fighter Squadron and the 77th Fighter Squadron, have bars that operate similarly.
Smith said enlisted airmen would sometimes have to clean up after drunken pilots.
“Beer lights” turn on after the last jet takes off or lands, according to the findings. Pilots ate popcorn and drank beer during academic sessions. But there was no evidence “pilots remained in a perpetual state of drunkenness,” and most were responsible about it.
One witness, however, said it set a bad example for young airmen told not to drink at work.
“I’ve never seen as lax a professional situation as I have here,” the witness said.