Military.com

Army Suspends Drill Sergeants Amid Sexual Assault Allegations

Sign at the entryway to Fort Benning (U.S. Army photo)
Sign at the entryway to Fort Benning (U.S. Army photo)

The U.S. Army has suspended a group of drill sergeants at Fort Benning in Georgia amid allegations of sexual assault toward female trainees.

The suspensions stem from a "recent sexual assault allegation made by a female trainee against a drill sergeant at Fort Benning," according to an Aug. 23 press release from the Maneuver Center of Excellence.

Officials at the base and U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command have opened an investigation into the incident.

"Initial review of this incident revealed indications of additional allegations of sexual misconduct involving trainees and drill sergeants," the release states. "We take these allegations very seriously, and we will ensure a full and thorough investigation of the facts."

When reached for comment, a Fort Benning spokesperson would not say how many drill sergeants have been suspended or how many female trainees are involved.

"Our initial actions are to ensure the safety and welfare of all of our soldiers," according to the release. "The drill sergeants have been suspended from drill sergeant duties, and will have no contact with trainees during the course of the investigation."

Counseling, legal and medical services have been made available to the trainees involved in the allegations, the release states.

Fort Benning officials stressed that the investigation is still ongoing, and "we are gathering all the facts at this time."

"There is no place for sexual harassment or sexual assault in our Army," the release states. "Our Army remains committed to maintaining a values-based climate, intolerant of these acts, and to respond appropriately when accusations are made."

In 2014, an estimated 20,300 service members out of 1.3 million troops on active duty were sexually assaulted, including about 1 percent of men and 4 percent of women, according to a study by the Rand Corp., a California nonprofit funded in part by the Pentagon.

Of those, several thousand were estimated to be in the Army, according to the research. Only a fraction of troops who are victims of sexual assault actually report the crime; many don't out of fear of reprisal, advocates say.

In fiscal 2016, there were 2,497 reports of sexual assault in the Army, according to the Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military for Fiscal 2016 -- the most recent year for which data are available.

Given the decrease in the size of the Army during this time, the number of soldiers reporting a sexual assault in fiscal 2016 equates to 4.4 reports per 1,000 active duty soldiers, compared to 4.2 per 1,000 in fiscal 2014 and 2015, according to the report.

"The Army believes the increase in the rate of reports of sexual assault by service member victims (from 2.3 in FY12 to 4.4 in FY16) does not equate to an increase in actual assaults," it states. "Rather, the unprecedented priority placed on sexual assault prevention and response by Army leaders since FY12 has seemingly encouraged victims who previously were reluctant to come forward and report," it states.

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

Related Topics

Army Crime Crime Military Legal