2 more Aberdeen sergeants charged NAACP says cases against black soldiers involve prejudice

March 26, 1997|By Scott Wilson | Scott Wilson,SUN STAFF

The Army has charged two more black sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground with sexual misconduct involving female soldiers, further alarming Harford County NAACP officials who claim the military investigation is motivated by racial prejudice.

Staff Sgt. Wayne Gamble and Sgt. 1st Class Ronald Moffett are the ninth and 10th black soldiers criminally charged since allegations of widespread sexual misconduct at the Army post were announced in November. Four cases have been resolved by court-martial or by administrative hearings.

Meanwhile, in the first sign the Army is investigating more than male soldiers, a former black female drill sergeant said yesterday that investigators have questioned male colleagues and hundreds of her former female trainees to determine whether she harassed them sexually.

The staff sergeant, still posted at the Ordnance Center and School, said Army investigators asked a male drill sergeant if she was a lesbian and made similar comments to recruits now posted in Europe and across the country.

The 13-year Army veteran said the school's three other black female drill sergeants also were under investigation.

"They have slandered my name all over the Army," said the sergeant, who wished to remain anonymous, saying she feared retribution. "They didn't inquire about white drill sergeants. That leads me to believe they are trying to stigmatize strong black females by labeling them 'dykes.' "

Lt. Col. William Harkey, an Army spokesman, declined yesterday to "respond to a third-hand allegation."

The charges come as the Army defends its five-month investigation to national civil rights groups, women's organizations and black members of Congress.

Fifty-six female recruits who trained at the post between January 1995 and October 1996 have made allegations of sexual harassment against 22 soldiers. The majority of the alleged victims are white; 14 of 22 soldiers suspended during the investigation are black.

Army officials say the breakdown of complaints and charges reflects the racial composition of the staff and students at the Ordnance Center and School, where about 60 percent of the 2,300 trainees are white and the majority of 42 drill sergeants are black.

Although some white soldiers have been suspended in the investigation, Army officials say, no whites have been criminally charged. That has prompted the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and members of the Congressional Black Caucus to call for an independent investigation of the charges.

Army officials say investigators are still reviewing allegations against five soldiers, including some who are white.

"It reinforces our belief that this is a targeting of black drill sergeants," Janice E. Grant, president of the Harford County NAACP, said of the charges announced yesterday. "This is a designed campaign against black Americans. It's a tragedy when you think that this is true in the military."

Army officials have denied that race has played any part in the investigation. "Race has never been an issue," Harkey said. Gamble, 36, faces 32 criminal counts on charges of fraternization, sodomy, assault, adultery, desertion, indecent language and indecent acts. He faces dishonorable discharge and 62 years in prison if convicted on all charges involving 14 female recruits.

Gamble arrived at Aberdeen in February 1994 as a drill sergeant in Charlie Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion. In September, he transferred to Fort Bragg in North Carolina but was brought back to Aberdeen in October after allegations arose against him. Military police found him after he left Fort Bragg and went to his mother's North Carolina home.

Moffett, 30, faces 10 criminal counts on charges of indecent assault, cruelty, fraternization, indecent language and adultery. He faces dishonorable discharge and 21 years in prison if convicted on all charges involving four recruits.

Moffett arrived at Aberdeen in August 1993, posted to Bravo Company, 143rd Ordnance Battalion. He transferred in June 1996 to Camp Humphreys in Korea and was brought back this month to face charges.

Army investigators have been questioning female privates about Gamble for months. On at least two occasions, privates have said Army investigators were too aggressive during interviews.

Pvt. Brandi L. Krewson and Pvt. Kelly Wagner, recruits who this month accused Army investigators of trying to force them to make rape charges, were questioned about Gamble in September. According to interview transcripts, both women denied any sexual relationship with Gamble.

"Have you ever spent a weekend with [Staff Sergeant] Gamble?" Army investigator Sara J. Thomas asked Wagner on Sept. 25.

"No. I've never even spoken to SSG Gamble," Wagner responded.

Krewson acknowledged that she "ran into drill sergeant Gamble while off post" but denied any personal relationship.

Pub Date: 3/26/97

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