The California National Guard tried to serve termination papers to one of its members in the hospital just hours after a suicide attempt last month, the Investigative Unit has learned.
Those close to Jessica Brown, a master sergeant with Moffett Field’s 129th Rescue Wing, say they believe the move is retaliation for exposing what has been described as a toxic culture inside the Guard. Last November in front of NBC Bay Area cameras, Brown criticized her leaders for failing to properly handle a sexual assault she says happened to her while on duty in Las Vegas.
“To me, it felt like it would be better if I was dead,” Brown said in the November interview. “I didn’t want to do it, but I couldn’t handle it anymore. I wasn’t sleeping again, and when I did sleep the nightmares were so bad.”
Sexual assault in the US military is accelerating toward likely change in the way such cases are handled by senior uniformed officers – which is to say, it may be taken out of their hands. It’s a function of changing public attitudes regarding military service and sexual misconduct beyond “he said, she said” – given greater strength by the growing ranks of women in senior elected positions.
In Congress, women lawmakers are leading the charge, pushing legislation that would take the authority to investigate and punish instances of sexual assault out of the chain of command, away from commanding officers whose potential conflict of interest may favor the military’s “good order and discipline” as it applies to unit cohesion and war-fighting ability over vigorously prosecuting sexual offenders in the ranks, including fellow officers.