Staff Sgt. Delmar Simpson in May was found guilty on 18 of 19 rape charges. Seven of Sgt. Simpson's colleagues at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., have rape charges pending against them.
A recruit accused of rape at Aberdeen committed suicide in January.
The Sergeant Major of the Army, Gene McKinney, was accused of sexual assault by a subordinate even while he was a member of a Pentagon panel studying sexual assault in the Army. He was forced to resign from the panel.
The Air Force granted 1st Lt. Kelly Flinn a general discharge for adultery and disobeying orders, crimes that usually require court-martial. The less-than-honorable discharge spares the Pentagon the spectacle of prosecuting the Air Force's first female B-52 pilot.
By now the whole world knows that the armed forces are consumed with sex. Press reports are full of the who, what, when, and where of the Aberdeen scandal and other tales of military sleaze, but they contain next to nothing about the why. Lt. Flinn is celebrated as the nation's first female B-52 pilot; but reporters do not emphasize the news that female soldiers now eat, sleep, and train with men in nearly every venue of military life. Chaplains, even, are sharing barracks with female clergy in training exercises. Original sin dictates that these circumstances will lead to temptation and transgressions.
Pentagon officials are trying to rid themselves of the canker without really getting at its source. The Pentagon's sexual harassment panel began studying the issue soon after the Aberdeen scandal began last November. Congress has since organized a task force to investigate sexual misconduct. Sensitivity training for Army drill sergeants is being increased. Already they receive nine hours of sexual harassment-related training with ethics and proper conduct discussed.
Chaplains increasingly are being brought into the equation. Army officials announced they will add up to 140 new chaplains to its ranks this year. The Army is doing an about-face in order to to avoid another Aberdeen. Chaplains are "a key part of this whole issue and a key part of the solution," admitted Army Chief of Staff Dennis Reimer.
"Aberdeen makes being a chaplain a growth industry," said Center for Military Readiness president Elaine Donnelly.
The expansion is significant because it contradicts a trend in all branches of the service to "draw down" or eliminate personnel. In one year more than 100,000 jobs in the Army were eliminated this way. Active-duty chaplain numbers dropped from 1,576 in 1990 to 1,181 this year. Nearly 200 more posts were expected to be eliminated before the surprise policy change.
The two training battalions at Aberdeen had only one chaplain during the period when the sex scandal unfolded. That chaplain was unavailable to counsel or mediate among parties to the scandal because he was filling a teaching post.
The circumstances, according to another chaplain, Air Force Capt. Maurice Friedman, meant the men and women at Aberdeen were denied "the visible and consistent presence of a chaplain, who stands as a reminder that there is more to life than what we see."
Now the military's clergy are being taken more seriously as integral to a unit's moral health. "An effective, committed chaplain makes a critical difference in the moral climate of a unit," said Lt. Col. Harold Carlson, post deputy chaplain at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. "As a result, anytime his services and his presence are excluded, the risk of decline in that unit's behavior increases."
The Army's chaplains already face a bewildering ministry. Like other service branches, the Army is integrating women in greater numbers into ever more dangerous and specialized assignments. Co-ed training can lead to resentment among male troops as well as both sexual temptation and sexual harassment. It's a tough beat for biblically conservative chaplains who are asked to play moral cop in a compromised setting. Some worry they will be blamed should more scandals ensue in spite of their stepped-up presence.
"There is a weakness at the core of the chaplaincy corps which has not been exposed," said Chaplain (Maj.) James DeCamp, a conservative who pastors a Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation in Oostburg, Wisc., when he is not on Army duty. "When there was a consensus about what the values of Americans were, people understood the legitimacy of the chaplain and biblical faith."
Army chaplains are not immune to the social changes they are expected to mediate. When Maj. DeCamp arrived for reserve duty at Fort Lewis, Wash., last summer, he discovered that ROTC candidates under his unit's instruction would be housed according to a new Army policy, called "barracks gender integration." College-aged men and women shared the same barracks, in this case with men living on the ground floor, women on the second floor, and one latrine shared by all.
"It's a move toward an androgynous society," Maj. DeCamp told WORLD. "For ROTC cadets this is a very competitive program. It goes a long way toward determining if they will graduate to the officer corps. If they complain about co-ed barracks, it can easily be held against them."
Maj. DeCamp, who served in Desert Storm, is chaplain to the instructors who train the ROTC cadets and was not assigned co-ed barracks at Fort Lewis. However, two years ago he attended a two-week training exercise at Fort Dix, N.J., where he and 53 other male Army chaplains were forced to sleep and change clothes in tents with three female chaplains. Eighteen men and one woman were housed in each of three tents.
Maj. DeCamp complained both verbally and in writing to the Army Chaplain School and was ignored. He concluded: "People in other branches of the Army who object can now be told, 'What are you complaining about? Even the chaplains are sharing tents!' What they may not be told is that a good many chaplains are also outraged-not to mention their wives."
The Army Chief of Chaplains operates one recruiting program designed only to bring female clergy into the service. Female Army chaplains complete the same basic training and specialized education as other chaplains. These female chaplains, who naturally emerge from denominations that favor women in leadership and hold a liberal view of Scripture, are likely to want more egalitarianism in the military. The recruitment feeds the military's current penchant to place social experiments over presuppositional truth.
Despite the Army's newfound interest in chaplains, Maj. DeCamp sees a move afoot to turn chaplains into "morale officers" and to replace biblical teaching with medical counseling.
Chaplains also have politics to play. The country's religious diversity is reflected in the makeup of the chaplaincy, which includes Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams, even though it is dominated by Protestant clergy.
Right now Roman Catholic priests are in short supply in the Army; although the Army's population is nearly 25 percent Roman Catholic, only 9 percent of its chaplains are Catholic. Protestant evangelical chaplains, who think evangelicals could comprise a significant portion of the chaplains about to be recruited, are careful when they speak about social issues, particularly women in the military and in the chaplaincy. They don't want to hurt their chances with Maj. Gen. Donald W. Shea, the Chief of Chaplains, who is a Roman Catholic priest.
Maj. DeCamp is a little dismayed by what he calls "pathogenic loyalty" on the part of officers. "Up to this point there has not been a groundswell of opposition or consternation on the part of army chaplains. People in today's military have learned to keep their heads down, either out of blind loyalty or personal protection of their own careers."
Restrictions against combat duty for women are falling with little public
debate. The trend began when President Clinton relaxed the Pentagon's "risk rule," which protected women from serving in close proximity to the front lines of combat. Each branch is under orders to set and follow timetables for bringing women into combat units, apart from legislation and against the recommendations of the 1992 Presidential Commission on Women in the Armed Services, a bipartisan panel of men and women. In the Army, combat units aren't integrated but that doesn't necessarily keep women out of combat. In Bosnia, for instance, the police units manning the boundaries between Bosnian and Serb areas include women patrolling from Humvee turrets.
One reason the military atmosphere is so charged with sexual politics is that the military's own rules regarding sexual misconduct are at odds with their new social setting. Under the military justice system's definition of "rape by constructive force," a soldier who does not use physical force in a sexual encounter can still be guilty of rape if a court-martial panel finds that the victim acquiesced because of fear of injury or death.
That distinction is meant to protect subordinates, but it can be used to get back at commanding officers. If the sexual harassment scenario is a fearful reality for female soldiers, the Joseph-and-Potiphar's-wife scenario is a hovering prospect for male counterparts.
Even conservative chaplains disagree on a solution. Consistent enforcement of the military code, some say, will eliminate promiscuity and abuse in a co-ed force. Halting the integration of men and women, others say, is all that will work.
A growing number of chaplains can agree on this: At the very least, basic training and the follow-up course, called AIT or advanced individual training, should be segregated. Both 8- to 13-week programs are too competitive and high-pressured to avoid problems as long as men and women train together, according to retired Army Chaplain (Col.) Dave Peterson. "I am a little bit angry at the Army for doing it this way," he said.
House Rep. Roscoe Bartlett introduced a bill May 8 that would order the Army, Navy, and Air Force to follow the Marine Corps' lead by having men and women segregated during basic training. The bill has 81 co-sponsors. Chaplains caution that it eliminates one problem-sexual politics in initial training-while pushing the task of integration further into a recruit's career.
Lost in all the effort to avoid another Aberdeen, however, is a cogent plan to return the military to its mission. National security, instead of being the mother of all Pentagon policies, has in the wake of Aberdeen become the step-child to a social agenda.