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Military & Veterans' Issues

Are Changes Making A Difference At Lackland? Air Force Begins Surveys To Find Out

Gen. Edward Rice (now retired), here testifying at a congressional hearing, is hoping changes in how the Air Force deals with abuse claims will help change things at Lackland.

Air Force officials in San Antonio have begun the Beta phase of a new sexual misconduct survey that is now part of the program in basic military training.

The survey was created in response to the sexual assault scandal at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland over the last three years.

The Air Force began administering the surveys the last week of October. They are designed to help those in charge learn if trainees feel safe, and whether they experienced any incidents of bullying, maltreatment, maltraining, unprofessional behavior or sexual advances in the training environment.  

Col. J.D. Willis, deputy commander of technical training at the Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, said the surveys are designed to guarantee privacy and anonymity to the trainee.

"We went up to the D.O.D. (Department of Defense) level to obtain permission to administer these surveys in a way that can be done without each trainee having to enter identifying information," Willis said.

The survey promises to group answers and take other steps to protect each airman’s identify, except in cases where law requires officials to report a situation through the judicial process. But it is not designed as a reporting mechanism for incidents of misconduct.

The study is designed so that civilians rather than military personnel can administer the test.

"We have large rooms at Lackland. We bring the trainees in in large groups and they’re instructed to sit wherever they like," Willis said.

The surveys are given in the seventh week of the eight and a half week training course, and Willis said there are no compulsory questions. He said the responses have already given officials insight into trainee-on-trainee bullying. Willis said regarding sexual misconduct, the 45 command directed investigation "fixes" put in place this year are proving successful:

"The critique boxes. The ability for them to use the phone to get hold of a sexual assault response coordinator or a chaplain. And the response has been very positive on those as well," Willis said.

Willis said he is analyzing data from 450 to 750 surveys each week. He said 26,000 basic military trainees are expected at Lackland over the next fiscal year, and all will be asked to take the survey, though none is required to do so.