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Entries in Air Force Academy (2)

Wednesday
May232012

Air Force Academy Graduates First Openly Gay Cadets

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GettyImages(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Eight months after a repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the U.S. Air Force Academy Wednesday graduated its first group of openly gay cadets.

As President Obama addressed the graduates, no rainbow flags could be seen on display. The LGBT students couldn’t be picked out of the crowd of white and blue.

But gay and lesbian advocates, academy alums, school officials and current students said they were there.

“The whole thing is we don’t want to be identified as anything different,” said Trish Heller, who heads the Blue Alliance, an association of LGBT Air Force Academy alumni. “We want to serve, to be professional and to be symbols of what it means to be Air Force Academy graduates.”

Heller said her group had connected with at least four members of the class of 2012 receiving diplomas Wednesday who had come out publicly as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  There were likely others, but they preferred to keep a low profile, she said.

Conversations with dozens of current academy students and some new graduates presented a picture of a smooth transition from the military’s ban on openly gay service members serving to the repeal of that ban. There have been no major incidents of overt discrimination or harassment since the policy was repealed in September.

But many signaled the change in policy would continue to hold a tender and personal meaning for those cadets who were weighing the decision to come out of the closet.

“It’s just been really open, a lot of acceptance. I haven’t heard anyone say, ‘I hate this. I can’t serve in the military with this,’” said 3rd Class Cadet Kevin Wise, a second-year management major. “It’s a sense of ‘OK, this is their lifestyle, but they’re still the person I’ve spent 21 credit hours a semester next to or I’ve gone through this with,’” he said.

Wise said he knew several classmates who chose to come out in the past few months. “Honestly, for me, it was, ‘Oh well, I kind of had a suspicion since I’ve known you for two years now, but you just move on,'” he said.

Acacia Miller, a sophomore from Shreveport, La., praised the school’s leadership for setting the right tone before the repeal. “They did a good job preparing us. There were lots of briefings about it. They stated how the military was going to go forward with it, how we should act. It was pretty much just like any other repeal, segregation, all that stuff. We just got told this is what’s going to happen and we all need to be adults about it,” she said.

Gay cadets at all the U.S. military service academies have been forming clubs and support groups, slowly making their existence known online and at campus social events. The Air Force Academy group -- called Spectrum -- was officially sanctioned earlier this month and had about 30 members from across all classes, the organizers said.

The Air Force Academy’s administration has also allowed the Blue Alliance to have a more high-profile role on campus. The group flew rainbow flags during a tailgate party before a home football game in November, Heller said, and hosted a dinner attended by the dean of faculty, Gen. Dana Born. In February, the group participated in a campus leadership symposium, she said.

“Things have gone very smoothly at the academies since repeal,” said Sue Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate and spokeswoman for the LGBT military advocacy group OutServe.

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was approved by President Clinton in 1993 as a compromise toward ending a long-standing ban on allowing homosexuals to serve in the military. Gay service members could enlist but had to keep quiet about their sexual orientation.  Advocates said it essentially forced them to live a lie.

Congress passed a law in 2010 formally ordering repeal of the policy. After a period of preparation and training for lifting the ban, the Pentagon gave the green light for final certification in September 2011.

Advocates said they never believed the repeal would prove problematic on campus, given that younger generations of students were generally more accepting of homosexuality, and the military’s commitment to following the rules set by leaders.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jan062012

3 Air Force Academy Cadets Charged in Unrelated Sexual Assaults

Hemera/Thinkstock(COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.) -- Three Air Force Academy cadets have been charged with unrelated sexual assaults against female cadets.  The news comes just a week after a Pentagon report found an increase in the reporting of sexual attacks at the academy during the past academic year.

The cadets were being accused of sexual misconduct in three separate incidents that occurred over the past 15 months, according to a statement released by the academy on Thursday.

“The charges were preferred on the same day,” said Air Force Academy spokesman Meade Warthen, but “the three separate incidents had nothing to do with each other. “

He added, “They just happened to be completed at the same time,” and that’s “the only thing they have in common with each other. They are not connected."

“Each case will be adjudicated independently and the accused in each case is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” said Col. Tamra Rank, the academy’s vice superintendent. “We take these allegations seriously. Sexual misconduct is a particularly egregious offense and we have a zero tolerance policy in the Air Force.”

The arrests came almost a week after the release of the Defense Department’s annual report on sexual assault at the military’s service academies, which found cases rose sharply over the last academic year to 65 from 41.

The report found the largest increase in such incidents took place at the Air Force Academy, where there were 33 reports of sexual assault, up from 20 the previous academic year. The report defined sexual assault as any kind of sexual misconduct ranging from sexual harassment to rape.

Since 2003, there have been four court martials involving Academy cadets who were accused of sexual assault, Warthen said.

Cadet Robert Evenson is accused of the most serious offenses, including rape, unlawful sex acts, engaging in an unprofessional relationship and conduct unbecoming an officer.  Charge sheets accuse Evenson of raping a female cadet in 2010 and of engaging in forced sex acts two other times that year. He is also accused of abusing his position as the cadet non-commissioned officer for honor cases by helping a female cadet “with her honor case in return for a dating relationship and sexual favors.”

Cadet Stephan Claxton is accused of having struck a fellow cadet on the face with his fist and then unbuttoning and unzipping her pants during a November 2011 incident. He is also being charged for a March 2011 incident where he engaged in sexual contact with a female cadet “without legal justification or lawful authorization and without the permission” of the cadet.

Cadet Kyle Cressy is accused of aggravated sexual assault on a woman while she was “substantially incapacitated” during an incident in May 2011.

The three cadets will now face Article 32 hearings, which are the military’s version a civilian grand jury, where an investigating officer will hear evidence to determine if the cases should proceed to a court-martial.

As is customary with service members awaiting such hearings, they remain on active duty while they await the hearings. Two of the three cadets are continuing to attend classes at the school, Warthen said. The third cadet, Evenson, was supposed to have graduated last year, but his graduation has been delayed until his case is resolved. He remains at the academy working for the commandant of cadets.

The hearings are expected to take place in late January or early February.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio