A 2011 Documentary Gives You an Inside Look at Toxic Leadership in the US Army: On the Dark Side in Al Doura, Iraq


U.S. Army Ranger John Needham, who was awarded two purple hearts and three medals for heroism, wrote to military authorities in 2007 reporting war crimes that he witnessed being committed by his own command and fellow soldiers in Al Doura, Iraq. His charges were supported by atrocity photos which, in the public interest, are now released in this video. John paid a terrible price for his opposition to these acts. His story is tragic. –On the Dark Side in Al Doura

After watching the 2011 documentary ‘On the Dark Side in Al Doura’ which profiles the case of Army Private John Needham, one can clearly observe the similarities to ‘The Kill Team’ PBS documentary released in 2014. On the Dark Side in Al Doura interviewed Michael Needham, the father of John Needham, who was an Army whistleblower from Fort Carson, Colorado and reported witnessing war crimes and atrocities in Iraq; The Kill Team profiled Adam Winfield, an Army whistleblower from Fort Lewis, Washington who witnessed and tried to report the same war crimes and atrocities in Afghanistan. For the sake of preservation, both John Needham and Adam Winfield admitted feeling pressured to conform or risk their own lives if they didn’t. They both felt like they were being set up to die or participate in the war crimes. Both soldiers at times felt like suicide was their only way out because there was no safe place for them to report overseas nor could they escape the situation. If they made it out of the war zone alive, the return home didn’t fair well for them. The PBS documentary  ‘The Wounded Platoon’ released in 2010 reveals the impacts the wars overseas had on Fort Carson soldiers. After watching these three documentaries, it’s clear why our soldier’s combat experiences traumatized and changed some of them. They not only had to fight a credible threat on the battlefields but some were betrayed by the very team they depended on for their lives.

Michael Needham takes us through the series of events that occurred in the course of John’s short Army career. He shared how John was the fifth generation in the family to fight in a war. John volunteered to join the Army in the spring of 2006, went to Fort Benning, Georgia for training, and then got stationed at Fort Carson. John was an Army Ranger assigned to the 212th, 2nd Combat Team, 12th Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. He was part of the infamous team known as the ‘Lethal Warriors’ which now appears to be disbanded. Part of his initiation into his new band of brothers was fighting other soldiers to determine where one fell in the pecking order. John held his own in the fights and was respected for his wins. According to John, the soldiers that didn’t fair so well in the fights were ‘smoked’ by leadership and peers, which ultimately forced them to leave, quit, or commit suicide. In October of 2006 John was deployed with his Fort Carson team to Al Doura, Iraq. His team was assigned to the Quarter Cav which was known for having some of the deadliest fights in the Iraq war.

John was a good soldier. He worked hard, saved lives in Iraq, and was awarded three medals for heroism and two Purple Hearts. John excelled as part of team, was brave, and his resilience was admirable. But during the course of John’s deployment, he witnessed war crimes and other atrocities committed by leadership and his fellow soldiers that affected his morale. John would also admit that initially he wasn’t quiet about it and when he did question superiors, he was told he didn’t have the right to question leadership. He didn’t dare report the war crimes via e-mail or telephone because he knew leadership could monitor everything. So for the sake of preservation and life’s sake, he did what he had to do to get by and stay alive. John would share that the Army was short of personnel so most of the soldiers got driven into the ground and deprived of sleep. After awhile John felt that he was forced into committing war atrocities that were illegal but feared if he didn’t do it, he would become a liability to the team and ultimately a casualty of his own people.

One night John was sent out on a mission with a Lieutenant (who did not commit war crimes yet remained silent). John thought this was unusual because they didn’t usually get sent out in pairs. They were ambushed by three shooters in the middle of the night who were determined to see them dead. When the shooting began, John pushed the Lieutenant to safety and kept the shooters at bay. He shot every round he had and when he was almost out of ammunition, he called the 212th for back-up on the radio but nobody answered him. Luckily another team was nearby who did answer him and was able to extract the soldiers from the situation and save their lives. It would be this incident that would break John’s spirit. He immediately suspected that he and the other soldier were sent on this mission to be killed. When he got back to the base, he began yelling “Why did you set us up?” And “If you want to kill me, kill me to my face!” But nobody acknowledged him so he went back to his tent where he decided that he would commit suicide. John was exhausted, irate, and he saw no way out. He didn’t want to live anymore. He felt that committing suicide was his only way out. John put a handgun to his head but just as he got ready to pull the trigger, his roommate dove and pushed the gun away from his head. The gun discharged and put a hole in the wall. Soldiers immediately began ascending upon the area. According to John, once leadership learned what happened, they held him down and beat him then locked him in captivity in a small room. The Battalion Commander was the one who kept John captive yet he didn’t press any formal charges.

John’s father Michael learned through John’s friends in Afghanistan that John was being held captive by the Battalion Commander. They were concerned about him. John’s family was already concerned about John’s earlier e-mails and posts on MySpace because it sounded like he had given up, which was not like him. With this information Michael Needham contacted Army commands, Fort Carson, Congressional leaders and the Army Inspector General (IG). He reports that the only office that took him seriously at the time was the IG. Michael was trying to save his son’s life. He told the IG that he didn’t want him to die. The IG’s office shared a list of rights for both John and Michael. And it was at this time Michael learned that he had third party rights and could intervene and act on John’s behalf. Michael was finally able to get in touch with the Battalion Commander only to learn that John was being treated like a criminal. The Battalion Commander informed Michael that John committed crimes and was being sent to prison in Kuwait. But Michael was able to intervene and get the Command to send him to medical instead. Medical determined that John was severely injured both physically and mentally. He had significant back injuries from the multiple explosions and blasts, shrapnel in his body, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Army medical in Iraq referred John to medical in Germany and from there he would be sent to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the states. But not before the Battalion Commander would put up one more roadblock. Instead, Michael Needham won this battle and John was flown to Germany.

Eventually, John was sent to Ward 54 which is the psychiatric ward at Walter Reed. Michael shared that John appeared to like the psychiatric help he was getting. A month into John’s stay at Walter Reed, he was informed that the Iraq Battalion Commander contacted the 212th Command in Colorado and requested that John be sent back to Fort Carson where he was facing criminal charges including unlawful discharge of a weapon. They were making him go and sent armed guards to accompany him back to Fort Carson. Michael Needham tried to intervene with the 212th at Fort Carson but they said they couldn’t do anything because they had orders from the Battalion Commander. John was sent back to Fort Carson and the harassment he endured in Iraq continued with the 212th in Colorado. John shared that they mentally tortured him, banged on his barracks door, stole his things, and isolated him. It was at this time Michael elicited the help of a veteran advocate Andrew Pogany who went to the command in Colorado and held these people personally accountable. Andrew helps soldiers in John’s situation because he understands how important it is to intervene. John could not get the kind of help that he needed at Fort Carson. Michael shared that the soldiers could see a professional once a week if they were suicidal and once a month if they were not. John’s father wanted him transferred to a Naval Medical Center in San Diego for intensive treatment and so he could be closer to home. Andrew helped make that happen.

Michael began to understand the impacts the war had on his son after John got back to California. John couldn’t handle driving above 35 mph, was suspicious of trash on the side of the road, and was easily startled by loud noises. He could not function in public and suffered with what is known as flashbacks. The Naval Medical Center in San Diego recommended that John get surgery on his back right away. They warned him that he could become paralyzed if he didn’t get the surgery. In the meantime Johns father spoke candidly with one of the Navy doctors about the treatment John received both in Iraq and at Fort Carson. He reiterated that he was concerned about his well being and asked him to help him find a way to prevent John from being sent back to Fort Carson, Colorado. Michael Needham feared that if John got sent back to Fort Carson that he would not return. This doctor agreed to help John. And Andrew Pogany recommended that John report the war crimes to the Army in an effort to protect John from being complicit and implicated in the future. John reported to the Army that he witnessed both leadership and peers killing innocent Iraqi civilians during the October 2006 to October 2007 timeframe in and around Al Doura. It wasn’t long after John made the report that all the charges against him were dropped and Fort Carson gave the necessary approval to transfer him to Balboa Naval Command. John went in front of the medical board and was medically retired for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, and back injuries. He was discharged honorably from the Army. The Army investigated John’s claims but concluded that no war crimes were committed.

Michael and John won a lot of battles with the US Army but soon they would lose the war. Just days after John was discharged from the Army, he would be accused of beating his new girlfriend to death with his bare hands. John Needham was charged with the murder of Jacqwelyn Villagomez and jailed for ten months until his family raised enough money to get him out on bail. John was not given treatment while jailed so the family was motivated to get him out so he could get the treatment he needed. John did in fact follow through with getting treatment and he learned a lot about himself in the process. He spent some time on camera talking about how the combat stress and the betrayal from his team impacted him. He talked about how he didn’t realize the significant impacts from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. John recognized how PTSD and TBI did in fact play a role in his fight or flight response mechanisms and that it may be because these conditions went untreated that he disocciated, snapped and beat his girlfriend to death. The two were in a heated argument after Jacqwelyn attacked one of John’s female friends. Both of them were volatile but unfortunately there were no witnesses to the event as John’s friend was outside the home calling the police to report Jacqwelyn. While John was awaiting trial, he went to Arizona to get another surgery and visit with his mom. On February 19, 2010 following treatment at the Department of Veterans Affairs, John would be found dead in his room from an overdose on painkillers. The cause of death at autopsy was considered undetermined and it is unclear if John accidentally overdosed or committed suicide.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, M.D. (Ret.), a former top military psychiatrist who until recently was a consultant to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told us: “[TBI ]most sensitively affects executive functioning, that part of the brain that we use for judgment and we use for decision making … when we are in situations of intense emotion. So if a person is affected neurologically … they don’t have the controls that they had before. … They can’t think as clearly. …They are really vulnerable to just reacting, overreacting, particularly maybe doing something that they had done when they’d been in combat.” –The Wounded Platoon

As a parent, Michael Needham has questions for the Army. Why don’t they even recognize the problem? Why don’t they take care of the soldiers? And why did they leave his son John Needham behind? The documentary ‘On the Dark Side in Al Doura’ concludes with the reminder that since the Patriot Act was passed and Dick Cheney declared that we needed to go into the shadows, the definition of torture has been blurred. The Abu Ghraib prisoner torture and abuse scandal erupted under the Bush administration in 2003 but no war crimes have been investigated under President Barack Obama’s administration. If the rule of law has been lost, what do we have? Our military personnel have a responsibility to abide by the rules established by the Geneva Conventions. John Needham and Adam Winfield both reported witnessing innocent civilians murdered by their fellow leadership and peers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They both also shared the impact the crimes had on their mental health and morale. They wished they could have reported the crimes to someone who would have listened and understood that their lives were in danger. We can learn a lot from John Needham and Adam Winfield; they have experienced what it’s like to be a whistleblower in the US Army. They have clearly illustrated what toxic leadership in the Army looks like and how whistleblowers in the US military have nowhere to turn.

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 10.02.14 PM

Private John Needham, US Army

Related Links:
Dateline NBC Mystery: Private Needhams War
PBS Documentary: The Wounded Platoon
On the Dark Side in Al Doura: A Soldier in the Shadows
PBS Documentary: The Kill Team
The PBS Documentary ‘The Kill Team’ Nominated for an Emmy
Retired Army Pvt John Needham Beat his Girlfriend Jacqwelyn Villagomez to Death, Then Died of an Overdose on Painkillers Awaiting Murder Trial (2008)
Honoring Jacqwelyn Villagomez who Died at the Hands of Retired Army Private John Needham (2008)

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Marcus Nelson Sr. Died While in Custody at Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas; Nelson Held on Charges Stemming from 1st Cavalry Division (May 23, 2016)

Marcus Nelson

Sgt. Marcus Nelson Sr., U.S. Army

Fort Hood Army Sgt. Marcus Nelson Sr., 45, died May 23, 2016 while in custody at the Bell County Jail in Belton, Texas. Nelson was being held in pretrial confinement on behalf of the 1st Cavalry Division. According to Army Times, Nelso was charged under the Uniform Code of Military Justice with departing his appointed place of duty, disobeying a lawful order from a noncommissioned officer, dereliction of duty and disobeying lawful regulation, and communicating a threat. Sgt. Nelson was from Detroit, Michigan and joined the Army in April 2005 as a petroleum supply specialist. In June 2015, Nelson was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division. Sgt. Nelson deployed to Iraq twice and his awards and decorations include three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, three Army Good Conduct Medals, and the Iraq Campaign Medal with four campaign stars.

Related Links:
Soldier who died in Bell County Jail identified
Soldier who died in Bell County Jail identified
Iraq war veteran found dead in local jail cell identified
Fort Hood Releases Name of a Soldier Who Recently Died in the Bell County Jail
Fort Hood soldier dies while in pretrial confinement
Fort Hood soldier dies while confined in Texas jail
Soldiers remember sergeant who died in Bell County Jail
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)

NBC DFW | Injured Heroes, Broken Promises: Army Launches Investigation Inside Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Unit (2015)

US Army SealAllegations of mistreatment persist inside units designed to heal wounded soldiers

“NBC 5 Investigates has learned that the U.S. Army has launched a new investigation inside Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), looking at claims of harassment and abuse.

The investigation comes after NBC 5 Investigates partnered with The Dallas Morning News for a six-month investigation that revealed hundreds of complaints from injured soldiers who said commanders harassed, belittled them and ordered them to do things that made their conditions worse at three Warrior Transition Units in Texas: Fort Hood, Fort Bliss and Fort Sam Houston.”

Read more from NBC DFW here.

Related Links:
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas
Wounded soldiers allege mistreatment in the Army’s Warrior Transition Units (2014)
Army closing 10 WTUs as need subsides; 15 to remain (2015)
House Orders Sweeping Investigation of Army Warrior Care (2015)
Soldier Describes Improvement at Fort Hood’s WTU After NBC 5 Investigation Exposes Complaints of Mistreatment (2015)
GAO: Army Needs to Improve Oversight of Warrior Transition Units (2016)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members (2016)
Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside (2017)
Washington DC Veteran’s Presentation on the Current Status of the Armed Forces at Fort Hood in Texas (2017)
78 Fort Hood Soldiers Died Since January 2016: 7 Overseas Deaths, 3 Non Combat; 71 Stateside Deaths, 37 ‘Suicides’, 1 Unsolved Homicide (2018)
The Fort Hood Fallen on Facebook

The Baltimore Sun published “Retired APG general: The players change, the ‘GAM’ remains the same” (May 23, 2013)

51dw4weNnpL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_Sixteen years ago, Robert Shadley, then a major general in the Army, uncovered disturbing news from an important Army training facility at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Drill sergeants and other instructors were regularly using their power to get sexual favors from young female trainees, or sometimes even assaulting or raping them.

After spending two years investigating sex assaults at APG, Shadley says not much has changed in the Army a decade and a half later.

“The sexual assaults are not about the sex. It’s all about the abuse of power. You have the propensity of some men, and women, to do that kind of thing, and then you put them in an organization that has a hierarchical structure that talks about the importance of following the chain of command. It’s just like pouring gasoline onto a fire.” -Robert D. Shadley

Read more from The Baltimore Sun here.

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) Cosponsored the Military Justice Improvement Act; Currently Serving as Senate Armed Services Committee Member (May 16, 2013)

Mazie Hirono

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senate Armed Services Committee

Hawaii Delegation Backs Reforms Against Military Sexual Assaults (May 16, 2013) by Kery Murakami, Honolulu Civil Beat

New legislation would make it easier for victims of sexual assaults in the military to come forward.

“WASHINGTON, D.C. — A burgeoning scandal over sexual assaults in the military is fueling calls from congressional lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to support a bill that gives victims greater confidence that they’ll get justice. At an emotional press conference on Thursday where former service members spoke of being sexually assaulted while in the military, Sen. Mazie Hirono and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard joined a bipartisan group in both chambers in pushing for reform. The issue was a personal one for Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East with the National Guard. Though she was not available for comment Thursday, she told CNN earlier this month that rape culture was prevalent during her first deployment to Iraq, to the point where soldiers were trained on protecting themselves from other soldiers.”

At [the] press conference, Jennifer Norris said she was raped while serving in the U.S. Air Force. “At first I was too afraid to report my assault to my chain of command, but two years later I was forced to report due to the escalation of the behavior and the fear that I would be raped again,” she said. Norris…said she’d been reluctant to report the rape because, “in the Air Force, I witnessed first hand what happens to those who stepped forward to report their assaults. I did not want to be stigmatized for reporting my assault — as I tried to move forward with my career. Instead, the best option for me was to try and endure it, to suck it up and try and make it until I could get transferred somewhere else — only to have it happen over and over again, like a recurring nightmare.” –Honolulu Civil Beat (May 16, 2013)

Read more from Honolulu Civil Beat here.

In the News:

U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono was joined today by victims of sexual assault in the military and organizations who assist victims of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) to announce new bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would reform the military justice system by removing the prosecution of all crimes punishable by one year or more in confinement from the chain of command, except crimes that are uniquely military in nature, such as disobeying orders or going Absent Without Leave. -Mazie Hirono (September 25, 2013)

Senator Mazie K. Hirono joined a diverse coalition, led by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), to call for the creation of a fair military justice system to reverse the systemic obstacles that sexual assault victims face. The Military Justice Improvement Act would remove the military’s chain of command’s sole decision-making power over whether cases move forward to trial. -Mazie Hirono (November 6, 2013)

Hirono Speaks In Support Of The Military Justice Improvement Act. -Mazie Hirono (November 14, 2013)

With Vote Looming, Hirono Urges Support For Military Justice Improvement Act -Mazie Hirono (November 20, 2013)

Before Senate Vote, Hirono Urges Colleagues To Pass Military Justice Improvement Act -Mazie Hirono (March 6, 2014)

PBS NewsHour: Hirono Fights For Military Justice Improvement Act -Mazie Hirono (March 7, 2014)

Senator Hirono Calls to Address Military Sexual Assault -Mazie Hirono (May 24, 2016)

Senator Hirono Presses Marine Corps Commandant for Commitment to Address Military Sexual Assualt -Mazie Hirono (March 14, 2017)

Related Links:
Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Senate Armed Services Committee
S.967 – Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013
S.1752 – Military Justice Improvement Act of 2013
Rape victims testify about assaults in Military (March 13, 2013)
Hawaii Delegation Backs Reforms Against Military Sexual Assaults (May 16, 2013)
Tough military sexual assault bill introduced (May 17, 2013)
Hirono visits 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks (April 8, 2013)
Hawaii delegation supports bill on military sexual assault (May 17, 2013)
Women in Congress Leading the Charge on Changing the Culture of Sexual Assault in the Military (May 18, 2013)
Women in the Senate Confront the Military on Sexual Assaults (June 3, 2013)
Senate set for battle over military sexual assault (June 12, 2013)
Diverse coalition behind Gillibrand sexual assault bill (July 16, 2013)
Military Sexual Assault Bill Would Reassign Authority (July 21, 2013)
Military Sexual Assault Bill Would Reassign Authority (July 21, 2013)
Hirono Joins Colleagues To Announce Bill To Stop Sexual Assault In The Military (September 25, 2013)
Hirono Calls For Fair Military Justice System For Survivors Of Sexual Assault (November 6, 2013)
Hirono Joins Bipartisan Group of Colleagues to Call for Fair Military Justice System for Sexual Assault Survivors (November 6, 2013)
Group of senators begin push to remove sex assault cases from chain of command (November 6, 2013)
McCaskill, Blunt seek to reform military sexual assault proceeding law (November 12, 2103)
Hirono Speaks In Support Of The Military Justice Improvement Act (November 14, 2013)
Rekha Basu: An epidemic of sexual assault in the military (November 19, 2013)
With Vote Looming, Hirono Urges Support For Military Justice Improvement Act (November 20, 2013)
Gillibrand, McCaskill Resume Military Sexual-Assault Debate (February 6, 2014)
Before Senate Vote, Hirono Urges Colleagues To Pass Military Justice Improvement Act (March 6, 2014)
PBS NewsHour: Hirono Fights For Military Justice Improvement Act (March 7, 2014)
Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand And Claire McCaskill Begin To Take On College Sexual Assault (April 4, 2014)
U.S. Senators Serious About Sexual Assault (April 21, 2014)
Retaliation Against Victims of Military Sexual Assault Still Persists (December 4, 2014)
Senators demand transparency in US military justice system (December 8, 2015)
Pentagon data on child sex crimes in the military doesn’t show full picture (January 4, 2016)
Senator Hirono Calls to Address Military Sexual Assault (May 24, 2016)
Senator Hirono Presses Marine Corps Commandant for Commitment to Address Military Sexual Assualt (March 14, 2017)
Hirono, Gillibrand Re-Introduce Legislation to Address Crisis of Military Sexual Assault (November 16, 2017)
Military Justice Improvement Act Targets Sex Assaults (November 20, 2017)
Defense Department targets Air Force Academy’s use of mental diagnoses to oust cadets who report sexual assault (March 1, 2018)
Pentagon IG opens evaluation of Air Force Academy sexual assault prevention office (March 1, 2018)
Senators Hirono, Gillibrand Reintroduce Legislation to Bring Justice to Survivors of Sexual Assault in the Military (June 14, 2019)
Senate Armed Services Committee Members & House Armed Services Committee Members (June 21, 2019)
Hirono Calls For Fair Military Justice System For Survivors Of Sexual Assault
Hirono Joins Colleagues To Announce Bill To Stop Sexual Assault In The Military
Senator Hirono Calls to Address Military Sexual Assault

Air Force Defends Handling of Sex Scandal (2013)

USAF SealThe House Armed Services Committee hears testimony on Lackland Air Force Base’s sexual misconduct problem. Generals say they’re addressing underlying issues, but victims have concerns.

The hearing did not include testimony from the alleged sexual assault victims at Lackland, nor from those charged or convicted in connection with the investigation. But two Air Force veterans who said they were sexually assaulted years ago did testify.

“If you want a career, you don’t want to say anything because you get retaliated against; you get beat up and thrown out. We need to remove the chain of command from the reporting process — it’s absolutely detrimental,” she said, adding that as a military sexual assault victim, “You almost become a leper.” She testified that two of her attackers pleaded guilty, but others were never charged.

Read more here.

The Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal, Texas (2011)

USAF Seal

The Lackland Air Force Base Basic Military Training instructor sex scandal in San Antonio, Texas was one of the biggest sex scandals in military history. In the end, 62 recruits were identified in the scandal and 35 basic military training personnel were courts martialed for alleged abuse of trainees or sex related offenses. The majority of the alleged abuse occurred between 2009 and 2011. SSgt Luis Walker and MSgt Michael Silva were the only instructors found guilty of rape and each was sentenced to twenty years in prison. Prior to their convictions, on January 23, 2013, the House Armed Services Committee conducted an investigation into the sexual assault misconduct at Lackland Air Force Base and heard from General Mark Welsh (Chief of Staff), General Edward Rice (AETC Commander), two retired USAF women, and Dr. David Lisak (a consultant hired by General Welsh). This was also the same day that then Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the military was lifting the ban on women in combat. As a result of this announcement, the media’s focus was distracted from the hearing on sexual assault in the military to the celebration of equality for women in the military.

No substantial legislation was enacted to address the successful prosecution of and prevention of these alleged abuses of power. The military officer’s authority to choose whether to investigate and prosecute felony crimes and how continues to go unchecked. Legislation introduced in May 2013 would have helped provide due process to both the accused and accuser by giving a military prosecutor the authority to move forward with a case. Unfortunately this legislation has been blocked by the Senate, primarily led by Senator Claire McCaskill, since 2013 until present. Whistleblowers have since disclosed that the Air Force investigations at Lackland trampled on due process rights. And individuals were railroaded with collateral charges which forced them to take plea deals to avoid excessive punishments. The Air Force is being accused of going on a “witch hunt” after being politically motivated to clean up the basic training facility while under the watchful eye of the media, advocates, and Congress.

The solution to help both the accused and accuser get a fair investigation and trial is to have a justice system that more closely resembles that of the civilian court systems or to simply use the civilian court systems. In the civilian legal system, victims of crimes report to the police where the name of the individual they are reporting is entered into a national crime database. Impartial detectives conduct independent investigations and provide the results of their investigations to a prosecutor. A prosecutor determines whether or not there is enough evidence to move forward with the successful prosecution of a case. The accused has the right to remain silent, right to be represented by an attorney, right to the opportunity to plead “not guilty” or “guilty”, and the right to request a jury trial. In other words, soldiers should have the same constitutional rights as their civilian counterparts. Soldiers have no choice over how things get handled in the military justice system because the Commander has all the control.

Passing military justice reform that guarantees due process rights for the accused and accuser and overturning the Feres Doctrine should be our highest priority.

United States Air Force Basic Training scandal
Lackland Sex Scandal, Huffington Post
At An Air Force Base, Allegations Of Sexual Assault
Lackland sex scandal prompts U.S. Air Force to discipline former commanders
Sexual Assault Survivors Criticize Sentence Given to Lackland Instructor
Lackland Rape Scandal Shines Spotlight On Military Failure
31 victims identified in widening Air Force sex scandal
31 female victims identified so far in sex scandal, Air Force says
Air Force Sexual Assault Scandal Even Worse Than We Thought
Report Confirms: Sexual Abuse Rampant at Lackland Air Force Base
Why Won’t Congress Investigate the Sex Abuse Scandal at Lackland AFB
Sex-assault scandal casts a pall over Lackland AFB
Lackland sex scandal continues to roil Air Force
HASC Hearing: Sexual Misconduct Allegations at Lackland Air Force Base
A Review of Sexual Misconduct by Basic Training Instructors at Lackland Air Force Base, House Hearing, 113 Congress
A Review of Sexual Misconduct by Basic Training Instructors at Lackland Air Force Base
General admits failure in Lackland sex scandal; 32 alleged culprits
Air Force chief: Scope of the Lackland sex scandal is ‘stunning’
Air Force Chief Calls Sex Misconduct a ‘Cancer’
Even After Lackland Scandal, Military Still Isn’t Fixing Its Sexual Abuse Epidemic
Advocates: Lackland hearings should spark reforms, not more empty promises
Attacked at 19 by an Air Force Trainer, and Speaking Out
Survivor of sexual violence at Lackland Air Force Base speaks out
Changes driven by Lackland scandal not complete
The Case Study of Craig Perry and the Future of Command in the U.S. Air Force
Relieved of command — Leader tried to reach out; investigation cites favoritism
Commander Says He Was Fired for Helping Airmen
I Sued My Husband’s Commander
Controversially fired Lt. Col. Perry retires, plans memoir
SSgt Luis Walker Commits Suicide at Leavenworth Where He Was Serving A 20 Year Sentence for Sexual Assault
MSgt Michael Silva, Lackland Air Force Base Basic Military Training Instructor, Sentenced to 20 Years for Two Rapes
A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal
Never Leave an Airman Behind: How the Air Force Faltered and Failed in the Wake of the Lackland Sex Scandal