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DoD to Review Communication Of Policy on Sexual Harassment

By Jackie Spinner
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The Navy and Air Force plan to review the way in which the military's zero-tolerance sexual harassment policy is communicated to their employees in the wake of recent reports of rape, sexual harassment, and other sexual misconduct at two Army training bases.

The Army is conducting a much broader investigation into all 17 of its training bases across the country, including the review of hundreds of complaints of assault and harassment.

Navy Secretary John Dalton sent a hand-written note and met with top Navy and Marine Corps officials this week "to make certain we are doing everything we can to be sure this type of behavior isn't occurring" in the Navy, said Capt. Charles Connor, spokesman for the Navy.

"This is not something you can fall asleep at," Connor said. "We want to make sure we are on top of the matter."

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Wednesday that there is no evidence that the Air Force or Navy is experiencing problems similar to the Army's.

The Army has filed criminal charges against two drill instructors and a captain accused of raping, sexually harassing and having improper contact with at least a dozen young female recruits at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland.

An Army drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., pleaded guilty this week to having sex with three female recruits.

In a separate case, the Army also reported yesterday that it was investigating "charges of a sexual nature" brought against a drill sergeant and an instructor by soldiers in training at Fort Lee, outside Petersburg, Va. Mari Kay Eder, spokeswoman for Fort Lee, said she could not provide details about the complaints or the number of complainants because the matter was still under investigation.

The Army has established a toll-free telephone number - 1-800-903-4241 - in an effort to find others who were subjected to sexual abuse at the Aberdeen Ordnance Center. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Army had received 3,102 hot line calls, with 341 deemed credible enough to turn over to investigators. About 86 involve Aberdeen supervisors and fellow soldiers, and 255 are related to other military sites.

At least one complaint each about the Navy and Air Force were forwarded to those branches.

The Air Force is reminding service personnel and civilians of its two-year-old hot line number for reporting sexual harassment: 1-800-558-1404.

Meanwhile, the president of the NAACP branch in Harford County, where Aberdeen Proving Ground is located, charged in a telephone interview that the three accused instructors were being used as racial scapegoats.

All three are black, and the female trainees making allegations against them include blacks and whites.

"I definitely think it's racial, and they are looking for a scapegoat," said Janice East Grant, president of the Harford County branch of the group.

"Historically, when black men are involved with white women, the black people have been wrongly accused," Grant said.

Grant said sexual misconduct between instructors and trainees is more widespread at Aberdeen, but the Army has chosen to file charges only against blacks. The Army denied race was a factor in the investigation.