As a drill instructor’s sex assault court-martial trial began this week in Texas, more than 70 members of Congress have signed a letter calling for a House hearing on the biggest U.S. military scandal in years, says USA Today. At least a dozen training instructors at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio have been accused of sexual assaulting recruits. So far, 31 women have come forward with claims ranging from inappropriate Facebook posts to dorm room rapes, and 35 instructors have been removed from their posts pending investigations.
The 500 instructors at Lackland train every airman joining the Air Force. More than 35,000 recruits each year go through 8½ weeks of basic training there. The court-martial of one instructor, Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, began Monday and has included emotional testimony by female trainees who allege he lured them into stairwells or his office and forced them into sexual encounters. Walker is charged with 28 criminal counts involving 10 women. As allegations began to surface last year, base commanders implemented a slew of policy changes. They also took the unprecedented step in March of shutting down basic training for a day to survey all 6,000 trainees on how they were being treated. Interviews with past trainees are continuing.