Army Reforms to Combat Lack of Ethics: Drill Sergeants, Recruits to Face Strict Boot Camp

By Scarborough, Rowan | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), September 12, 1997 | Go to article overview

Army Reforms to Combat Lack of Ethics: Drill Sergeants, Recruits to Face Strict Boot Camp


Scarborough, Rowan, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


The Army yesterday announced major reforms in the way it trains male and female recruits, including extended ethics training, after concluding that "sexual harassment exists throughout the Army."

The Army said it will respond to the highly publicized scandal at its Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and other training bases, by changing the culture in which highly authoritarian drill sergeants turn young civilians into soldiers.

"We had a leadership failure by selected individuals," said Army Secretary Togo West as he presented the report by a special task force. He appointed the Senior Review Panel on Sexual Harassment last November when the Army disclosed instructor-on-trainee sex abuses at Aberdeen.

Recruits will get an extra week added to eight weeks of boot camp to learn values and ethics, and they will go through a "more rigorous soldierization" - a tacit admission that boot camp has gone a bit soft. Soldiers will receive two new cards: one listing core values, the other telling them how to report sexual harassment.

Drill-sergeant candidates will undergo more vigorous screening, including mental health exams. They must be certified as fit for duty by a lieutenant colonel.

More than two-thirds of the instructors surveyed said they weren't prepared to command mixed-sex units. The Army will now give special training on how to deal with men and women training together in close company.

To attract better people, the Army will start offering more pay and first-choice duty stations after instructors' drill tour.

The Army's "action plan" was an admission the service has been somewhat lax in choosing drill sergeants, the first person who imbues the Army's way of life into raw soldiers.

Mr. West said the three-man, four-woman panel told him that abuses found at Aberdeen were mostly isolated.

"Sexual abuse is not endemic throughout our Army," he said. "Sexual harassment, however, continues to be a problem."

At Aberdeen, 12 instructors have been charged with sexual misconduct. One drill sergeant was convicted of rape. Scores of other soldiers have been disciplined for sexual harassment after the Army set up a special Aberdeen hot line and fielded hundreds of complaints.

Meanwhile, the Army's top enlisted man, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene C. McKinney, is awaiting the decision of a hearing officer on whether he should be court-martialed. Six women have accused him of pressuring them to have sex.

The Army's new emphasis on ethics classes for recruits is driven, in part, by the fact that some trainees admitted to having consensual sexual relations with instructors.

The Army is following the lead of Gen. Charles Krulak, Marine Corps commandant. He instituted such training last year, finding that many recruits lacked basic values typically instilled by parents, teachers and clergy.

The review panel's two-volume report was also notable for what it didn't say. It didn't recommend that women be assigned to land combat jobs, as some women's groups have advocated as a way to increase female standing among the men. The panel also sought no change in the Army's decision in 1993 to jointly train male and female recruits.

In its major finding, the panel wrote: "Sexual harassment exists throughout the Army, crossing gender, rank and racial lines; sex discrimination is more common than is sexual harassment."

The report blamed Army leaders who have lost soldiers' trust and are guilty of "passive leadership" for allowing sexual harassment to persist.

"The panel concludes that the human relations environment of the Army is not conducive to engendering dignity and respect among us," the report said. …

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