- Col. Deborah Liddick is to command the 737th Training Group
- The Lackland Air Force Base in Texas is where every new American airman reports
- One in five recruits are women with most instructors men
- She takes over for Col. Glenn Palmer who was ousted last month as attention to the scandal intensified
PUBLISHED:16:20 EST, 16 September 2012| UPDATED:17:22 EST, 16 September 2012
The U.S. Air Force has chosen a woman to lead its basic training unit at a Texas base where dozens of female recruits have alleged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by male instructors within the past year.
Col. Deborah Liddick’s command of the 737th Training Group, announced on Saturday, brings a distinctly new face of authority to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where six male instructors were charged with crimes ranging from rape to adultery.
There are other instructors still under investigation.
The Air Force announced Liddick’s appointment in a statement that didn’t mention the sex scandal or highlight choosing a woman to lead a unit where the number of women identified by military investigators as potential victims is approaching 40.
About one in five recruits at Lackland are women, while most instructors are men.
‘I look forward to and have the utmost confidence in having Col. Liddick take the reins of basic military training,’ Col. Mark Camerer, commander of the 37th Training Wing at Lackland, said in the statement.
Lackland is where every new American airman reports for basic training, graduating about 35,000 each year.
Liddick is already stationed in San Antonio, where she serves as chief of the maintenance division at the former Randolph Air Force Base. She is scheduled to take command on Friday.
Crimes: Six male instructors at the Lackland Air Force base, pictured, have been charged in the last year with crimes ranging from rape to adultery while more are under investigation
Replaced: U.S. Air Force Col. Glenn Palmer, pictured, was ousted last month from the position Liddick takes as attention to the scandal intensified
She takes over for Col. Glenn Palmer, who was ousted last month as attention to the scandal intensified. Another commander at Lackland was also relieved over the summer for what military prosecutors described as a lack of confidence.
The most serious allegations at Lackland involved Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, sentenced to 20 years in prison in July after being convicted of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.
Walker, a married father with two boys, was found guilty on all 28 charges faced with prosecutors claiming that he had sexual intercourse with four of 10 female recruits.
He faced life in prison.
Earlier this week, Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio was sentenced to a year in prison and received a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty to having sex with a trainee. He faced up to 14 years in prison.
In early August, Tech Sgt Christopher Smith, 33, was convicted on two of four counts of misconduct with basic trainees and sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Sentenced: Tech. Sgt. Christopher Smith, left, was sentenced to 30 days in jail in August while Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, right, was sentenced to 20-years in prison
Sentenced: Last week Staff Sgt. Kwinton Estacio was sentenced to a year in prison after pleaded guilty to having sex with a trainee
Among his charges Smith was found by jurors having sought an intimate relationship with a teenager trainee but not guilty of making sexual advances to her.
He was also found guilty of a social relationship with a second trainee while innocent of a charge of obstruction of justice.
His rank has been reduced to Airman First Class, escaping the highest possible charge of a year in prison and full removal from the Air Force with a bad conduct discharge.
Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group that has pressed Congress to hold hearing on the Lackland scandal, continued calling for legislative changes to military policies with news of Liddick’s appointment.
‘Hopefully, Col. Deborah Liddick will do a great job,’ said Nancy Parrish, the group’s president. She added that what’s occurring at Lackland is part of ‘a much broader problem endemic throughout all the services.’
U.S. Rep. Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, visited Lackland last week and said he believed the Air Force was being diligent in its investigation. In August, the White House pick for Air Force chief of staff was held up while Congress pressed the service for answers about the scandal.