More than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year following complaints of sexual misconduct from more than 100 young women who had tried to enlist.
According to the findings of an Associated Press investigation — the result of dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests — the potential enlistees, many of whom are underage, reported being sexually preyed upon by their male recruiters, with some claiming they had been raped on recruiting office couches. Others said they had been assaulted in government cars and groped. The incidents happened nationwide and also included consensual romantic relationships.
Missouri Representative Ike Skelton, the House Armed Services panel's ranking Democrat, dubbed the abuses "outrageous" and "absolutely unacceptable" in the wake of the AP report. Skelton is calling for the adoption of a military-wide "No One Alone" mandate, which would prohibit male recruiters from being alone, at any time, with female enlistees. The measure was recently implemented by the National Guard, AP reports. Skelton also said he'll request an Armed Services Committee hearing to contemplate tougher penalties for recruiters who commit such offenses.
One young woman who wanted to become a Marine has filed suit against the military branch, claiming she was forced to have sex with a recruiter. "He said to her, outright, if you want to join the Marines, you have to have sex with me," her attorney, Barry Vogel, told the wire service. "She was a virgin. She was 17 years old."
According to AP, at least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were cited for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees last year, compared with just a handful of cases within the past decade. The findings also show that 722 Army recruiters have been accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996. Most of the offending recruiters who had been deemed guilty of sexual misconduct were disciplined administratively, according to the findings, and in most cases the officers were punished with reductions in rank and forfeiture of pay.
The surge in sexual-misconduct cases is in line with overall recruiter wrongdoing, which shot up from just more than 400 incidents in 2004 to 630 in 2005. Defense Department spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ellen Krenke told AP that each arm of the military takes sexual misconduct by recruiters "very seriously and has processes in place to identify and deal with those members who act inappropriately."
More than $1.5 billion of Pentagon-approved funds has been spent this year to bolster recruitment. Despite those expenditures, Army recruitment has continued to dwindle. Numbers were down for the fourth consecutive month back in May, prompting officials to explore fresh tactics to avoid missing the Army's annual target for the first time in six years (see "Army Recruitment Down For Fourth Consecutive Month").
For its part, the Marines have turned to MySpace, the popular interactive online community, to boost recruitment (see "Marines Totally Want To Be Your MySpace Friend — And Recruit You").
AP interviewed a number of victims and their offenders, and a pattern began to emerge. Most of the sexual misconduct reported occurred in recruiting stations, recruiters' apartments or in government vehicles. The victims were typically between 16 and 18 years old, and recruiters usually met them at their high schools, malls or recruiting offices.
One girl told the wire service that alcohol was involved in her assault. She said Marine Corps recruiter Sergeant Brian Fukushima climbed into her sleeping bag, on the floor of a recruiting station, and removed her pants. Two other recruiters, she claimed, were having sex with two of her friends in the same room.
"I had a freak-out session and just passed out," she said. "When I woke up, I was sick and ashamed. My clothes were all over the floor." Fukushima was convicted of misconduct in a military court, after another woman came forward to report that he'd assaulted her. He left the service last fall.
"He did whatever he pleased," recalled another victim, who was 17 at the time of her rape. "People in uniform used to make me feel safe. Now they make me feel nervous."
National Guard recruiter Sergeant Eric Vetesy was charged in Indiana with 31 counts of rape, sexual battery, official misconduct and corrupt business influence, according to AP — and his behavior helped inspire the "No One Alone" policy. The mandate bars male recruiters in that state from being alone anywhere with female enlistees, with the threat of immediate disciplinary action when violations occur. Recruiters may also be punished if they fail to report misconduct.