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Sexual Misconduct: Exception Not Rule

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 9, 1997 – Recent sexual misconduct cases represent the exception, not the rule, according to DoD officials.

Sexual misconduct cases only involve a fraction of 1 percent of the people in the military, officials said.

"We have 1.5 million men and women in uniform on active duty," said Army Gen. John M. Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "and the vast majority -- from the lowest recruit to the most seasoned leader -- find this behavior ... abhorrent."

Wrongdoing by a small number of individuals has diminished all those in uniform, Shalikashvili said, "and we take that very seriously."

Defense Secretary William Cohen said the United States has "the finest military in the world, and they are being called upon to serve this country and the interests of our allies day in and day out, and they perform admirably.

"Are there people who fail to measure up to the standard set by our military? The answer is yes. But they are in the vast minority, and the overwhelming majority of the people who are serving our military are carrying out their responsibilities and measuring up to the high standards."

Sailors and Marines aboard the USS Kearsarge recently conducted operations which are an example of the real-world missions, U.S. service members perform successfully every day, Cohen said. U.S. forces evacuated about 2,500 civilians from Sierra Leone after a military coup left the African nation in turmoil. The mission was "safe, fast and efficient," he said.

While such military business goes on as usual, a DoD official said, military men and women are distressed by the apparent misperception the public may have of "1.5 million people running around chasing after each other."

"That's not the case," said a DoD official who spoke on background. "These are people who are very busy. They're going about their business, many times under very arduous circumstances, doing their job and performing extraordinarily well. The fact that men and women in uniform today make up a high quality, motivated and well led force is a testament to the training they have received throughout their service in the military."

Since the sexual misconduct cases emerged at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., advanced training center, public and congressional scrutiny has focused somewhat mistakenly on whether the military should continue mixed-gender basic training, the official said.

Cohen announced plans June 7 to form a task force to review gender-integrated training. Army, Navy and Air Force officials recently told congressional leaders service members must train the way they will fight -- together. The Marine Corps conducts segregated training.

Opportunities for women in the military have increased as their numbers have risen. At the start of the all-volunteer force in 1973, 45,000 women made up 2 percent of the force. Today's 195,000 women make up 13.5 percent of the force. Women now serve side by side with men during deployments around the globe. They serve in the field, aboard ships and as fighter pilots. This was not always the case.

Prior to the 1990s, women were restricted from serving in many military specialties. In 1991, the law excluding women from flying combat aircraft was repealed. In 1993, Congress repealed laws prohibiting women from being assigned to combatant ships. Today, there are no laws on the books barring women from any assignments in the military.

Policy, however, places ground combat positions -- infantry, armor and artillery, special operations assignments, submarine duty and a few other assignments -- off limits to women. At present, 99 percent of Air Force jobs, 94 percent of Navy jobs, 67 percent of Army jobs and 62 percent of Marine Corps are open to any qualified individual.

Opportunities for women expanded due to the contribution they made to the quality and readiness of U.S. forces, the official said. Women perform no better nor worse than men, he said. The evidence is in their rates of promotion and advancement to positions of leadership, which are no better nor worse than men.

The performance of about 35,000 women who served in the Persian Gulf was crucial to Desert Storm's success, he said. In Bosnia, Army officials deemed women's performance indistinguishable from that of their male counterparts.

"The women in Task Force Eagle performed magnificently, whether turning a wrench in a muddy motor pool or standing guard at a base camp or flying a helicopter," said Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, 1st Armor Division commander.

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