Female Airman Given Offensive Call Sign During Drinking Event

A T-38 Talon sits on the flight line of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 10, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty)
A T-38 Talon sits on the flight line of Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, June 10, 2014. (U.S. Air Force/Staff Sgt. Steven R. Doty)

Air Education and Training Command officials have confirmed that a female airman was given an inappropriate call sign by fellow airmen during a drinking event in what constituted a hostile and dangerous environment at Laughlin Air Force Base's pilot training wing.

Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, commander of Air Education and Training Command, last week relieved Col. Charles Velino, commander of the 47th Flying Training Wing, along with the operations group commander and the flying training squadron commander of the Texas base after incidents of dangerous behavior and fostering a threatening environment were reported.

Days later, news of the slur against a female pilot surfaced when Kwast told the San Antonio Express-News that a vulgar name was used as the female airman's call sign, the traditional nickname given to pilots.

"The call sign incident was an unrelated event that was uncovered during the investigation," command spokeswoman Jennifer Gonzalez told Military.com on Wednesday.

The incident came to light as officials looked into accounts of a separate threatening incident, spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday told Air Force Times on Tuesday. Holliday could not elaborate on the threat because officials are still determining appropriate actions, Air Force Times said.

Gonzalez emphasized Wednesday that the threatening incident was not the sole cause of the firings.

"We would really like to emphasize that these actions were motivated by the fact that some airmen were feeling unsafe in their work environment," she said in an email. "Details of the unsafe environment will be released after airmen have had due process."

While the female airman said she did not feel threatened and didn’t feel that the name given to her was a "big deal," Air Force officials knew it was unacceptable, Kwast said.

"We all know it is," he told the Express-News. "And she may have said that she didn't feel like it was a big deal because she felt like her future assignment might be at risk because the people that have power over her were naming her."

The incident reportedly happened during a drinking event in which airmen were doing shots.

While not named in the announcement, Col. Robert Pekarek had assumed command of the 47th Operations Group at Laughlin in June 2017, according to an Air Force release. The service confirmed he was relieved of command last week.

Gonzalez told Military.com that officials would not release the name of the training commander because of privacy concerns.

The 47th Flying Training Wing is a major unit that oversees T-1A Jayhawk, T-6A Texan II and T-38C Talon pilot training under the 19th Air Force, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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