DoD Spokesman: Sexual Misconduct the Issue at Aberdeen
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 1997 Sexual misconduct is the issue at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., not race or mixed-gender training, said Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon, after a military court sentenced an Army drill sergeant to prison for rape.
Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson was convicted of 18 counts of rape and other misconduct charges April 29. A six-member military jury sentenced the drill instructor to 25 years in prison for raping six female trainees. He was the first of 12 drill instructors accused of sexual misconduct at the training base to be court-martialed. Incidents at the Aberdeen base triggered investigations into sexual harassment throughout the military.
Reporters queried Bacon at a Pentagon press conference May 6, after Simpson's civilian lawyer charged the Army singled out the 12 instructors because they are black.
"That charge is absurd," Bacon said. "It has nothing to do with race. This was a case involving sexual misconduct. This was an issue of not following the rules. It's an issue of alleged sexual misconduct and most of those allegations have been upheld by the jury."
The case was vigorously argued and vigorously defended, Bacon said. "After weighing the charges and the evidence, the jury made its decision." Simpson's conviction and sentence will be appealed automatically, a requirement in all cases where a prison sentence is longer than one year, Bacon said.
About 48 percent of the Army's 2,000 drill instructors are minorities, Bacon said. "So there's a one in two chance that a drill instructor brought up on some charge will be a minority."
Aberdeen Proving Ground is one training base, and Simpson is one of 2,000 instructors, Bacon stressed. "The overwhelming majority of these drill instructors are doing these jobs according to the rules. They're doing them very effectively. This is a tough line of work. If you look at how well our soldiers perform in places like Bosnia, Haiti and Kuwait ... our soldiers are very well trained. They're well-trained because the drill sergeants are good."
Bacon also discounted charges integrated training was to blame for sexual misconduct at military training bases. He said Army officials have told Congress that men and women should train as they fight -- in integrated units. "The Army, the Air Force and the Navy have found mixed-gender training works best for them," Bacon said. The Marine Corps trains men and women recruits separately until they begin advanced training.
"The secretary of the Army has set up a senior review panel, which is looking at a broad range of issues involving basic training and the relationship between trainers and trainees," Bacon said. DoD is also looking into the mixed-training issue, he said.
Shortly after taking office, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen announced a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and visited an Army and an Air Force basic training site to view mixed-gender training.
"What he heard at those facilities is that it makes sense to have integrated gender training," Bacon said. "In the Army, he heard it from the commanding general of the Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. [William H.] Hartzog, all the way down to trainees at Fort Jackson [S.C.]."