Air Force punishes captain for failing to stop harassment

June 25, 1992|By Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The officer in charge of the Air Force Academy's prestigious parachute team has been fired for failing to stop sexual harassment, underage drinking and lewd rituals among cadets, academy officials said.

The flight commander for the Wings of Blue, identified only as a captain, will be reassigned to another Air Force installation.

"He had knowledge of what was going on and did not take appropriate steps to end it," said Col. Bud Stokes, deputy commandant for operations.

The captain was disciplined after a monthlong investigation of sexual harassment allegations made by female members of the parachute team. The women said that during a March training session in Gila Bend, Ariz., four male cadets taunted them by saying women weren't qualified to jump and didn't belong on the team. The women also accused the men of telling sexist jokes and singing demeaning songs.

Although the investigation confirmed those allegations, the academy decided in May to punish all 32 members of the team for what it called "inappropriate and unbecoming behavior."

Maj. Gen. Joe Redden, commandant of cadets, said investigators started out looking for evidence of sexual harassment, and found it and more.

One of the team's rites of passage required members, both men and women, to stand around a bonfire together and urinate into the flames. "The nature of these initiation rituals were sophomoric, childish, not something we expect of future Air Force officers," General Redden said.

Although there was no evidence of hazing or physical abuse, he said, underage drinking was condoned and even encouraged. Sexual jokes and derogatory songs were part of the routine, and few men or women ever tried to stop it.

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