TINKER AIR FORCE BASE — The young woman said the first time she had sex with her recruiter was in the summer of 2010 in a St. Joseph, Mo., hotel room after he'd taken her to visit Whiteman Air Force Base.
The relationship continued for several months with the recruiter even traveling to see her graduate from basic military training that November in Texas.
On Tuesday at Tinker Air Force Base, a military judge found Staff Sgt. Dion J. Lewis II, a nine-year veteran, guilty of being derelict in his duties by developing an unprofessional relationship with the recruit. Lewis is a member of the 349th Recruiting Squadron, which is headquartered at Tinker. He had been working as a recruiter based in Kansas City.
The judge ordered him to 30 days confinement and reduction one rank to senior airman. Lewis had faced a maximum sentence of six months confinement, a bad conduct discharge, forfeiture of two-thirds of his $2,845 monthly salary and reduction to the lowest rank.
Lewis' conviction came on the same day the military released a scathing report on the systematic sexual abuse of women recruits undergoing basic training at Lackland Air Force Base.
Despite years of effort by the Department of Defense to crack down on sexual misconduct in the ranks, such cases continue to plague the military.
“The reforms proposed will not fix the systemic cultural and legal biases that preclude justice for victims of military sexual assault,” Nancy Parrish, president of Protect our Defenders, an advocacy group, said after the Wednesday release of the Lackland report. “And the issues confronting the challenges of reporting a rape or assault need more examination.”
At Lackland, 48 women have come forward publicly with stories of sexual misconduct that investigators consider credible, according to the Air Force. The San Antonio base is where all U.S. Air Force basic training is conducted.
Prosecutors are pursuing charges ranging from inappropriate touching to sexual assault against 11 basic training instructors. Five instructors already have pleaded guilty or been convicted at courts-martial and received sentences ranging from 30 days to 20 years in prison. The other cases are pending.
The Air Force report on Lackland called for 45 policy changes including increasing the number of female trainers, improving trainer screening and providing more supervisors and better leadership.
“The misconduct discovered at (basic military training) tears at the foundational trust and core values that hold the Air Force together,” the report said.
While some observers called Wednesday's recommendations a good step that will improve sexual assault awareness and response at Lackland, they said it still failed to correct the flaws within the military judicial system.
“The military far too often retaliates against victims and fails to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Anu Bhagwati, a former Marine Corps captain and director of Service Women's Action Network, another advocacy group.
In the Tinker case, the woman told how she met her recruiter in February 2010, a few months before she entered the Air Force's Delayed Entry Program. She said Lewis gave her his personal phone number and that they exchanged sexually explicit text messages.
They went out a few times after the Whiteman trip including another rendezvous in a Kansas City motel room before she left for basic training that September, she said.
She said the relationship ended naturally and with no animosity and that she hadn't seen Lewis in more than a year.
She said she was surprised when military investigators contacted her earlier this year. She said they asked her to contact Lewis by telephone to see if he would confirm the relationship. When she did so, he denied any relationship, she said.
The recruit acknowledged she went out with Lewis willingly, never felt pressured and that she considered herself in a dating relationship with him. She said she never complained, never filed harassment allegations or felt mistreated and that Lewis's support helped get her through basic training. A fellow recruiter reported the inappropriate contact between Lewis and the recruit to a supervisor. An investigation was initiated.
The woman, who now serves as Mandarin Chinese cryptologic-linguist, said the relationship has not hurt her military career and that she holds no bad feelings toward the Air Force.
The military prosecutor emphasized that Air Force regulations clearly prohibit recruiters from even holding hands let alone engaging in a sexual relationship with a recruit.
Other recruiters testified that they were repeatedly warned by superiors and received frequent training to avoid such relationships.
In arguing for leniency for his client, Lewis' lawyer cited the sex scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, 60, noting a personal indiscretion cost the nation a quality leader.
He said Lewis might have exercised poor judgment but questioned whether it warranted a court-martial.
He called Lewis' prosecution “irrational.” Lewis did not testify.
Petraeus, a highly decorated former four-star general who once commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, resigned as CIA director last week after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, a 40-year-old Army reservist. The affair came to light after a Tampa socialite, Jill Kelley, received what she considered threatening emails from Broadwell and contacted the FBI.
That same FBI investigation also turned up evidence that Gen. John Allen, head of coalition forces in Afghanistan, may have been sending potentially inappropriate emails to Kelley, who frequently hosted parties and other events involving senior leaders from U.S. Central Command in Florida. On Tuesday, Department of Defense Director Leon Panetta ordered an investigation. Allen's scheduled transfer to oversee NATO and American forces in Europe has been put on hold.
The reforms proposed will not fix the systemic cultural and legal biases that preclude justice for victims of military sexual assault. And the issues confronting the challenges of reporting a rape or assault need more examination.”