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Staff Shakeup At Air Force Academy

The top two leaders at the Air Force Academy are not responsible for the sexual assault scandal at the school, but they should be held accountable for the culture that allowed the problem to continue, Air Force Secretary James Roche said Wednesday.

"Still, change must occur, and a new leadership team to implement these changes is in the best interest of the academy and the Air Force," Roche said in a statement.

The top two academy officers - Lt. Gen. John D. Dallager and Brig. Gen. S. Taco Gilbert III - are among five officers involved in the shake up. Dallager is expected to remain as superintendent and the top official at the 4,100-cadet institution until his scheduled retirement in June.

The Air Force announced Wednesday that it will replace the other four, at least two of them by women, and it will implement a series of directives aimed at making the school safer for cadets.

Air Force officials declined additional comment until a news conference scheduled later Wednesday.

Roche said he and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. John Jumper would monitor the academy closely.

"You can't just fire a couple of generals and think the problem is solved because you've missed the point," Roche said. "The culture at the academy absolutely must change. We're going right at the culture, but you don't change the culture with one memorandum."

The Air Force is investigating allegations that female cadets were ostracized or reprimanded for reporting rapes and sexual assaults.

Fifty-six cases of rape or sexual assault have been reported at the academy since 1993. Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., says 50 cases have been reported to his office, many by women upset with the way the academy handled their complaints and a significant portion occurring within the last two years.

"The evidence indicates now that we need to have some changes in leadership at the top," Allard said. "I think they're moving in the right direction."

The Air Force said the four officers who will be replaced are Gilbert, the commandant of cadets and second in charge at the academy; Col. Steve Eddy, vice superintendent; Col. Bob Eskridge, vice commander; and Col. Laurie Sue Slavec, training group commander and the academy's highest-ranking woman.

Gilbert, who declined to comment, is scheduled to leave the academy this summer after completing a standard two-year tour.

Maj. Gen. John W. Rosa Jr., deputy director of current operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will replace Dallager and Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, a 1978 academy graduate, will replace Gilbert, the Air Force said.

Col. Debra D. Gray will become vice commandant of cadets, and Col. Clada Monteith, will replace Slavec, the Air Force said.

Jessica Brakey, a 23-year-old former cadet who says she was raped at the academy, said simply reassigning the officers is inadequate punishment.

"They've proven they're ineffective leaders, and a little slap on the wrist isn't enough," she said. "As far as I know they were covering up crimes. Isn't that a crime?"

Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., said command changes alone are not sufficient, but he is confident that other changes at the academy will help fix the problems.

"My fear was at the outset that they would find somebody to be the scapegoat and then say everything is fine and everything is not fine. There's a cultural problem there that needs to be changed," Hefley said.

The other changes, he said, include clustering female cadets' dormitory rooms and providing round-the-clock security; training medical personnel to respond to sexual assault cases; offering amnesty to cadets raising sexual assault allegations; and expelling cadets for underage drinking or providing alcohol to an underage cadet.

The academy also will remove a prominent sign that says "Bring Me Men..." from its spot near the campus courtyard and parade area.

Hefley said he can't promise parents that their daughters would be safe if they attend the academy, but he hopes the changes under consideration will solve the problems.

Also Tuesday, Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Calif., Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., and 18 other female House members asked to meet with Roche and urged the Air Force to provide more support for sexual assault victims and harsher sentences for the perpetrators.

Two investigations of the academy's handling of rape claims are underway and a third is due to start by the end of the week.

By Robert Gehrke