A new law passed today removes sexual assault investigations and prosecutions from the military chain of command.
California has just made a major change in the way sexual assault allegations are investigated in the state military department. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that requires sexual assault cases to be investigated by outside civilian law enforcement, not by military commanders.
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SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves (2014)
Honoring SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves, who became ill while en-route from Kuwait and then died unexpectedly shortly thereafter at a hospital in Rockford, Illinois on September 13, 2014. Apparently the commercial plane needed fuel and/or had to do an emergency landing for Virginia in Rockford, Illinois. It appears that they were on their way to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. According to reports, Caballero was a Reservist stationed with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, 330th Medical Brigade out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin but trained at Fort McCoy prior to her deployment to Kuwait. She served in Kuwait for roughly eight months and for some reason was coming home a month early with a high ranking travel companion. Media reports claim she wanted to surprise her family in Texas. It is believed Caballero suffered from a blood clot which was exacerbated with the altitude on the flight. She was not listed as a non-combat death by the Department of Defense but this would in fact be considered a non-combat death due to medical. The family admits in newspaper articles that a lot of the details are sketchy.
Here are the questions we have after combing through the below articles. Why was she coming home a month early accompanied by a high ranking travel companion if she was going to surprise her family? Did something happen in country prior to her boarding that plane? Was this an early surprise for family in Texas or an expedited transfer from Kuwait back to the states? The military isn’t in the business of assigning high ranking travel companions unless there is an issue. Were there any concerns about medical health prior to boarding the plane? Where were they flying to? Rockford, Illinois is only a couple hour drive from Fort McCoy. Why did they not land the plane sooner at a larger airport like Chicago when the medical issues began to develop or the fuel began to get low? Why did the DoD not send out an official notification of non-combat death considering she was on active duty orders in support of war efforts in Kuwait? Fort Hood Criminal Investigation Division (CID) in Texas was assigned to investigate the cause of death of Virginia. The family was asked to submit a FOIA request for the results of the investigation.
SSgt Luis Walker was a basic training instructor at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. After an investigation into allegations of improper relationships and abuse of power at the training facility in 2011, SSgt Walker was charged with sexual assault. One of his victims stated under sworn testimony that he had raped her. As a result of the courts martial, he was found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison as opposed to the original life sentence he was faced with. Shortly after the conviction, his wife spoke out publicly claiming that her husband was innocent and that he did not get a fair trial. SSgt Walker also echoed those sentiments when asked for a statement from the Air Force Times (see quote). A few months later, one of the victims in the trial went public with her story. Virginia Messick shared that she was raped by SSgt Walker and that it was a harrowing experience. She also later reported that she was facing battles trying to get disability benefits for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the Department of Veterans Affairs. SSgt Walker’s attempt to overturn the sexual assault conviction on appeal were eventually denied. It was only a few months later that he would be found dead in his cell at Fort Leavenworth from an apparent suicide.
“These setbacks have discouraged me and at times I have wanted to give up, but because of my family, I can not. I am a human being and an American, I deserve the right to a fair trial. There has been a lot of focus on the number of alleged victims in my case, instead of the charges against me, when in fact each charge should stand on its own.” -SSgt Luis Walker (Air Force Times, June 2014)