A senior Air Force commander says 31 female victims have been identified so far in a widening sex scandal that has rocked the service's training command at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
Gen. Edward Rice, commander of the Air Education and Training Command, tells Pentagon reporters that a dozen male instructors are under investigation, and that nine of them are from the same unit — the 331st Training Squadron.
Rice says the Air Force believes this is not a problem endemic to the nine training squadrons, and that it appears to be localized. He says the sexual misconduct occurred over the past two and one-half years, but the first woman came forward only a year ago.
The Air Force has launched an independent investigation across all training units.
Rice is the commander of the Air Education and Training Command. He said that nine of those under investigation are from the 3-31st Training Squadron. The squadron's commander, Lt. Col. Mike Paquette, has been relieved of duty pending the investigation.
The first claim was made against Staff Sgt. Luis Walker who is scheduled to be court-martialed next month. Walker is charged with 28 counts that include rape, aggravated sexual contact and multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault.
According to Fox News, 35,000 go through the eight-week training at Lackland. There are 500 instructors, 11 percent of whom are female; 22 percent of the airmen being trained are women.
In one case, former Staff Sgt. Vega-Maldonado pleaded guilty to one charge of having a sexual relationship with a trainee in exchange for a reduced sentence. He said he had assaulted 10 women during basic training at Lackland.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Craig LeBlanc, facing charges of aggravated assault and obstruction of justice, is accused of bragging about having sex with a trainee in a closet, according to court testimony Thursday to determine if there was enough to warrant a court-martial.
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