WASHINGTON — Amid a spate of allegations of criminal behavior by military recruiters and service members involved in the Defense Department’s efforts to prevent sexual assaults and help that crime’s victims, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the services to retrain, re-credential and rescreen all sexual assault prevention and response personnel and military recruiters.
In a statement, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said Hagel was informed May 14 about allegations of criminal behavior against an Army sergeant first class who was a sexual assault prevention and response coordinator at Fort Hood, Texas.
“I cannot convey strongly enough his frustration, anger and disappointment over these troubling allegations and the breakdown in discipline and standards they imply,” Little said.
Hagel met with Army Secretary John M. McHugh and directed him to fully investigate the matter rapidly, to discover the extent of the allegations and to ensure that all of those who might be involved are dealt with appropriately, the press secretary added.
Little said Hagel directed the retraining, re-credentialing and rescreening to address the broader concerns that have arisen out of these allegations and other recent events.
“Sexual assault is a crime, and will be treated as such,” the press secretary said. “The safety, integrity and well-being of every Service member and the success of our mission hang in the balance. Secretary Hagel is looking urgently at every course of action to stamp out this deplorable conduct and ensure that those individuals up and down the chain of command who tolerate or engage in this behavior are appropriately held accountable.”
Army officials announced yesterday that the Army Criminal Investigation Command is investigating the Fort Hood soldier for pandering, abusive sexual contact, assault and maltreatment of subordinates.
In a statement, Defense Department officials said the soldier had been assigned as an equal opportunity advisor and sexual harassment and sexual assault response and prevention program coordinator with a 3rd Corps battalion at Fort Hood when the allegations surfaced. The soldier was immediately suspended from all duties by the chain of command once the allegations were brought to the command’s attention, officials said, adding that charges had so far not been filed or preferred.
During testimony last week before the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee, McHugh expressed anger over sexual assaults and sex abuse crimes in the military.
“This is so contrary to everything upon which the Army was built,” he said. “To see this kind of activity happening in our ranks is really heart wrenching and sickening.”
McHugh told members of Congress that Army leaders are focused on efforts to prevent sexual assaults.
“As I said to our new brigadier general corps when I spoke to them about two weeks ago, ‘You can do everything from this point forward in your military career perfectly, but if you fail on this, you have failed the Army,’” he said.