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.
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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.”