AUSTIN, Texas — The Air Force is responding to a sex scandal at its training headquarters by reducing instructors' working hours and cracking down on even those who swear at recruits, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said she was encouraged by policy changes at Lackland Air Force Base following a tour and meetings with commanders but remained concerned with whether the changes will stick.
Speier, who visited the San Antonio base with two other Democrats on the committee, said she was also told the Air Force is more rigorously vetting instructors and installing "drop boxes" on base where recruits can report instructor misconduct without being seen by instructors or filmed by surveillance cameras.
"Part of what they saw was just the intimidation and the beating down (of trainees)," the California congresswoman said. "They so intimidate the trainee that they become totally unable to speak up."
Investigators say more than 40 women at Lackland in the past year had inappropriate contact with their instructors or were sexually harassed or raped. Five instructors have been convicted since July on charges ranging from adultery to sexual assault, and nearly a dozen more have been under investigation.
Last month, the Air Force put a female commander over the training wing where about 36,000 airmen graduate each year.
Speier said she's "not big on symbolism" but that she believes the new leadership is taking the scandal seriously.