• Share
  • Read Later

(2 of 4)

--A sergeant at another recruiting station repeatedly harassed a 16-year-old high school freshman. At one point, the investigator concluded, he "grabbed" her and made her so upset she missed a quarter of her classes, contributing to a failing grade in algebra. "The Army image is now tainted in one of the more productive schools," said the investigator. "It could take years for the damage to disappear."

--At some recruiting stations, the men ignored the rule that only female recruiters should weigh and measure female applicants. A female prospect described how a male recruiter "placed his hands on my middle buttocks and traced around in a semicircle. A feeling of uncomfort came over me." She said that he told her, "Redheads really turn me on," and that later, as she filled out some forms, he started rubbing her back, feeling her leg and kissing her. "I pushed myself away," she told the investigator, "and said, 'I think you need to stop!'"

In another sham physical examination, a recruiter made a potential recruit who had a possible back-alignment problem pose for him in her bikini "so he could see whether or not her [back] would meet the doctor's approval."

Faced with reports like these, the Army seems to manage the problem by moving it around. Despite stern warnings against this behavior, the documents show, investigations were flimsy, and perpetrators received light punishment or were shifted to other locations or quietly eased out. Only once in the reports did a commander question the wisdom of allowing recruiters guilty of such wrongdoing to continue in the field. "We have a perceived behavioral pattern of sexual harassment against female applicants," he wrote.

Major General Alfonso Lenhardt, the Army's top recruiter, denies the problem is widespread but nonetheless promises to fix it. If recruiters "commit misdeeds," he says, "they're going to pay the price. We're going to make sure that everyone gets the word."

Despite rules forbidding any romantic relationships between recruiters and recruits, the Army has until now failed to enforce that ban with the intensity it has shown in denouncing the abuse at Maryland's Aberdeen Proving Ground. Last week a military jury there began deliberating whether to convict Sergeant Delmar Simpson of raping six female trainees under his command 19 times. One issue in his case is whether he used the sheer power of his position as a drill sergeant to intimidate women into submitting to him sexually. But recruiting stations present their own challenges to an Army trying to crack down on sexual harassment. Recruiters and their customers tend to be far from military headquarters, and oversight is minimal. The isolation creates a bond among recruiters that can lead them to count on their buddies to lie for them. In one case, "all of the recruiters in the station conspired to withhold information from me as an act of self-protection," an investigating officer wrote. In another case, a local commander was reprimanded by his superiors for trying to derail an investigation of sexual harassment on his watch.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4