Army trainers charged with raping soldiers
More serious than Tailhook?November 7, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Army trainers were charged with rape Thursday in an investigation in which dozens of women soldiers say they were the victims of sexual assault or sexual misconduct while in training at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. A third trainer was charged with sexual misconduct.
The Army's Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland is where 11,000 soldiers a year, including some 1,300 women, get advanced training. The Army investigation found that 30 or more of the new female soldiers were raped or sexually assaulted by their instructors over the last several months.
The Army is deeply embarrassed and concerned. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer said Thursday, "I am particularly troubled by the abuse of power these allegations talk to, and I will tell you that is something that offends us all."
"It's not a pretty picture. Sordid is the word that comes to mind," said another Army official.
The charges against one drill instructor, Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson, include multiple counts of rape, forced sodomy, fraternization, adultery, and obstruction of justice. He alone accounts for 17 of the 30 victims, most of whom are 20 years old or younger.
Army Capt. Derrick Robertson, a company commander, is charged with a single count of rape. Another drill sergeant, Staff Sgt. Nathanael Beach, is charged with improper consensual sex. In the Army, a charge of rape carries a penalty of up to life in prison.
Sources say court martial charges are being brought against the three trainers, and there could be more suspects charged as the investigation continues. Already, sources say, other post personnel have been suspended, charged with lesser offenses or relieved of their duties.
"This is the worst thing I've ever come across, and I tell you, we're going to work through this. We're going to take care of the victims and take care of our soldiers," said Maj. Gen. Robert Shadley, the commander of the U.S. Army Ordnance Center.
"If it only occurs once, that is once too many," Reimer said. "We have zero tolerance for that and we will insist on zero tolerance in this area."
The Army says the investigation began in September after one female soldier said that Simpson had raped her. Sources say more than 500 women soldiers have been questioned and another 500 are being contacted, some who went through the school as long as two years ago.
Pentagon officials say it appears the Army scandal is far worse than the 1991 Navy Tailhook scandal, because the sexual assaults are more serious, and because they took place in uniform, on base.
"When trainees come in as new soldiers, they have a certain outlook on their leadership. America has placed a great deal of trust in the people that train our soldiers, and we feel that trust very deeply," Reimer said.
"So when we get to the abuse of authority that concerns me a great deal."
What Army officials are most anguished about is that the victims of these sexual assaults were so young, and so new to the Army. Some had been in the Army for as little as eight weeks.
The Army has set up a toll-free number for victims, their parents or anyone with information relating to the investigation. The toll-free number is 1-800-903-4241.
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