Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Air Force relieves commander over sex scandal at Lackland

AUSTIN, Texas — The fallout from a sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base widened Friday when the military ousted the top commander over the basic training unit where investigators say dozens of female recruits were sexually assaulted or harassed by their male instructors.

Col. Glenn Palmer had arrived at Lackland last year and was in charge when allegations involving more than a dozen instructors began to mount within his 737th training group. Collen McGee, spokeswoman for the Lackland training wing, said it was decided the unit needed new leadership.

"But Col. Palmer did not create the environment that created the misconduct," McGee said.

Military prosecutors have investigated more than a dozen instructors at Lackland and charged six with crimes ranging from rape to adultery. Officials said Palmer was not facing any criminal charges and that his new assignment had not yet been determined.

Lackland is where every new recruit reports for eight weeks of basic training. About 35,000 graduate each year. About one in five recruits is female, while most instructors are male.

The first allegations began a year ago. The most serious allegations involved an instructor sentenced to 20 years in prison last month after being convicted of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others. Staff Sgt. Luis Walker was sentenced in a military courtroom at Lackland.

Removing Palmer from command was Col. Eric Axelbank, commander of the entire 37th Training Wing. The Air Force also announced Friday that Axelbank will be moving on. Military officials stressed, however, that Axelbank's departure was just a normal change in command and not tied to the Lackland scandal.

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