Another Air Force trainer punished in sex scandal
Female airmen march during graduation at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio June 22, 2012, in this image made from video. / AP Photo
(AP) SAN ANTONIO - A military jury on Thursday sentenced a Texas Air Force basic training instructor to 30 days of confinement and reduction in rank for his part in a sex scandal at one of the busiest military training centers in the nation.
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Smith received his punishment after the seven-member jury deliberated for five hours, according to Oscar Balladares, spokesman for Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The sentencing, which capped a three-day court-martial at the base, includes a reduction in rank to airman first class.
Smith was convicted Wednesday of wooing one female trainee and fraternizing with another at Lackland. He was acquitted of making sexual advances on the female trainee he wooed and of obstructing justice.
Investigators say at least 38 female trainees were victimized and 15 instructors implicated.
Last month, a military jury gave Staff Sgt. Luis Walker a 20-year sentence after the former instructor was convicted of rape and sexual assault. The counts against Walker were the most severe in the investigation.
Lackland is where all Air Force recruits go through basic training. It has about 500 instructors for about 35,000 airmen who graduate every year. While one in five recruits are women, most instructors are men.
Six of the 15 instructors being investigated have been charged, with Walker and another instructor, Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado, already having been court-martialed. Vega-Maldonado admitted in June to having sex with a female trainee and he was given 90 days of confinement as part of a plea deal.
Courts-martial have been set for three more trainers, with Master Sgt. Jamey Crawford scheduled for trial Sept. 5. He stands accused of having a wrongful sexual relationship with a trainee, wrongfully providing and consuming alcohol with a trainee and committing adultery with the trainee.
A two-star general, Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward, has launched a separate, independent probe. Nearly 80 members of Congress have called for a hearing.
Meanwhile, a Republican senator had blocked a vote on the White House pick for Air Force chief of staff over the service's response to the scandal. In a statement last week, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said he put a hold on the nomination of Gen. Mark Welsh "until I feel the Air Force is adequately addressing the unacceptable situation at Lackland and taking corrective steps to reform their training program to prevent this from happening again."
However, Cornyn rescinded the hold Thursday after meeting with Welsh to discuss the Lackland scandal. Welsh succeeds Gen. Norton Schwartz as head of the Air Force.
The sexual misconduct at the base apparently began in 2009, but the first woman didn't come forward until last year. The first allegations were levied against Walker.
The Air Force has permanently removed Walker and 35 other instructors for a variety of reasons that include misconduct, failure to meet standards and medical issues.
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