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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sexual Harrassment Claims Rock Army

WASHINGTON -- The latest sex scandal rocking the U.S. Army again proves the military, a system based on unquestioned obedience to superiors, still has a long way to go to eliminate sexual harassment.

"This is still a man's profession, with a lot of men who intellectually and emotionally have not accepted that the military could be women's work,'' said Lawrence Korb, a former Pentagon personnel director.

Four drill sergeants and a company commander were charged with crimes ranging from misconduct to rape of female trainees at the Army Ordnance Center at Aberdeen, Maryland, Army officials announced last week. The captain and two sergeants face court-martials.

On Saturday, post spokesman John Yaquiant said 15 more drill sergeants and instructors were suspended from duty in a widening investigation. Yaquiant said the number of suspensions could increase or decrease as the probe continues.

Korb, a specialist on military issues at Washington's Brookings Institution, said the Army must investigate the harassment.

Also, Korb said, it must look into why men with a tendency to abuse power over women would be put in such jobs, and why the incidents alleged at Aberdeen remained hidden for months and came to light only after a recruit complained.

"Trainees are our newest, most vulnerable members,'' Togo West, secretary of the Army, said after the scandal was disclosed.

West said Friday that if violations are found to have occurred, the perpetrators will be held accountable. He also said he is forming an advisory panel to determine "whether this is any kind of a wake-up call for other places in our army where superiors lead subordinates and have the opportunity to take advantage of that authority.''

U.S. Representative Patricia Schroeder, a Colorado Democrat, said the Army "talks zero tolerance, but they implement it with a wink-wink.''

"It's a top-down hierarchy, and all males at the top,'' the congresswoman said. "Reporting sexual harassment requires listening to all people equally, no matter what their rank, and that's a radical concept for the military.''

Schroeder holds the Navy's Tailhook scandal partly responsible for such alleged incidents as Aberdeen. "The other services were too busy patting themselves on the back, saying 'Thank God, we're not the Navy,' and look what happened,'' she said.

In 1991, female Navy officers complained of being groped and fondled along with other women by drunken male Navy officers at a convention in a Las Vegas hotel.

In a Pentagon study on sexual harassment completed last May, the Navy was reported to have made more progress than the other services in combatting the problem. The study found that the incidence of sexual harassment complaints is going down in all services, from 64 percent of women in 1988 to 55 percent last year. And it said the Army ranks second to the Marine Corps in its rate of sexual harassment.