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Senate holds hearings on sexual misconduct in the military

army investigation graphic February 4, 1997
Web posted at: 4:35 p.m. EST

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Military and civilian leaders of the U.S. armed forces were quick Tuesday to assure members of a Senate panel investigating allegations of sexual misconduct that they took such allegations seriously.

Mc Kinney

Members of the Senate Armed Service Committee were particularly disturbed by Monday's reports that the Army's highest ranking non-commissioned officer, Sergeant Major of the Army Gene McKinney, had been accused of sexual harassment. Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan called the reports "highly disturbing."

"They underscore the need for the Defense Department and for this committee to address the problem of sexual harassment in our armed forces and to do it aggressively and to do it quickly," Levin said during Tuesday's hearings.

Aberdeen instructor charged with rape

Meanwhile on Tuesday, another instructor at the Army's Ordnance Center at Aberdeen, Maryland, has been charged with a series of crimes including rape, sodomy and extortion. Charges were filed against Staff Sgt. Vernell Robinson Jr., an instructor with the 16th Ordnance Battalion, 61st Ordnance Brigade at Aberdeen, on January 30 but were just made public Tuesday.

Both the Senate and the Army itself began to investigate sexual misconduct in the military after allegations surfaced that military trainers at the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a training base, had engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with trainees.

Secretary of the Army Togo West called the recent allegations "shocking."

"We are not talking about trainee on trainee sex here in the allegations that came out of Aberdeen and elsewhere," West told the senators. "We are talking about allegations that leaders did not do their jobs. That, to an Army general and to his colleague the secretary, is shocking."

McKinney removed from probe panel

Mc Kinney

McKinney, a decorated soldier and the Army's top adviser on personnel issues since 1995, was accused of grabbing and kissing Sgt. Maj. Brenda L. Hoster in a Hawaii hotel room last April.

The Army confirmed that Hoster, now retired after 22 years of service, had filed a 13-page document of allegations against McKinney.

McKinney denied the allegations through an Army spokesman and asked to be relieved of his duties on an Army panel investigating sexual harassment until the matter is resolved.

Hoster told The New York Times that she decided to file the complaint against McKinney after West appointed him to the panel.

Correspondent Jamie McIntyre contributed to this report.  

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