- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 19, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

More than 100 young women who expressed interest in joining the military in the past year were preyed upon sexually by their recruiters. Women were raped on recruiting office couches, assaulted in government cars and groped en route to entrance exams, a six-month investigation by the Associated Press found.

The investigation found that more than 80 military recruiters were disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential enlistees. The cases occurred across all branches of the military and in all regions of the country.

“This should never be allowed to happen,” one 18-year-old victim said. “The recruiter had all the power. He had the uniform. He had my future. I trusted him.”

At least 35 Army recruiters, 18 Marine Corps recruiters, 18 Navy recruiters and 12 Air Force recruiters were disciplined for sexual misconduct or other inappropriate behavior with potential enlistees in 2005, according to records obtained by the AP under dozens of Freedom of Information Act requests. That’s significantly more than the handful of cases disclosed in the past decade.

The AP also found:

• The Army, which accounts for almost half of the military, has had 722 recruiters accused of rape and sexual misconduct since 1996.

• Across all services, one out of 200 frontline recruiters — the ones who deal directly with young people — was disciplined for sexual misconduct last year.

• Some cases of improper behavior involved romantic relationships, and sometimes those relationships were initiated by the women.

• Most recruiters found guilty of sexual misconduct are disciplined administratively, facing a reduction in rank or forfeiture of pay; military and civilian criminal prosecutions are rare.

The Pentagon has committed more than $1.5 billion to recruiting efforts this year. Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke said that each of the services takes the issue of sexual misconduct by recruiters “very seriously and has processes in place to identify and deal with those members who act inappropriately.”

The sexual misconduct almost always takes place in recruiting stations, recruiters’ apartments or government vehicles, the AP found. The victims are typically between 16 and 18 years old, and they usually are thinking about enlisting. They usually meet the recruiters at their high schools, but sometimes at malls or recruiting offices.

“We had been drinking, yes. And we went to the recruiting station at about midnight,” one young woman’s story begins.

The 18-year-old from Ukiah, Calif., hides her face in her hands as she describes the night when Marine Corps recruiter then-Sgt. Brian Fukushima climbed into her sleeping bag on the floor of the station. Two other recruiters were having sex with two of her friends in the same room.

“I don’t like to talk about it. I don’t like to think about it,” she says.

Fukushima was convicted of misconduct in a military court after other young women reported similar assaults. He left the service with a less-than-honorable discharge last fall.

His military attorney, Capt. James Weirick, said Fukushima is “sorry that he let his family down and the Marine Corps down.”

“It was a lapse in judgment,” Capt. Weirick said.

All of the recruiters the AP spoke with said they were routinely alone in their offices and cars with young women. They also all agreed that the lines were clear: Recruiters do not sleep with enlistees.

“Any recruiter that would try to claim that, ‘Oh, it’s consensual,’ they are lying, they are lying through their teeth,” former Marine Corps recruiter Ethan Walker said. “The recruiter has all the power in these situations.”

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