Deadly Power Premiered ‘Lackland Military Scandal’ on Oxygen: Virginia Messick Recounts Experience in Air Force Basic Training (July 23, 2018)

When 19-year-old Virginia joined the U.S. Air Force, a superior officer’s sexual abuse turned her lifelong dream into a daily nightmare. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

When Sergeant Walker began harassing Virginia, his powerful military rank kept her from speaking out against his appalling behavior. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Sergeant Walker isolated Virginia and assaulted her in an Air Force dorm room. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia fought for justice not just for herself, but also for nine other victims who suffered Walker’s abuse. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia experienced PTSD from the sexual abuse she suffered at Lackland Air Force Base. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Virginia explains the extreme intensity of Air Force basic training. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Colonel Don Christensen left the Air Force after 23 years to dedicate his career to eradicating sexual assault in the military. -Lackland Military Scandal, Oxygen (S1, E1)

Related Links:
Deadly Power: Preview – An Air Force Academy Nightmare (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – The Abuse Escalates (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – Trapped By A Predator (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Preview – Virginia’s Day In Court (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Virginia’s Lasting Trauma (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Surviving Basic Training (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen
Deadly Power: Bonus Clip – Fighting For Change (Season 1, Episode 1) | Oxygen

A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal

USAF SealThe Lackland Air Force Base sex scandal erupted in the 2011/2012 time frame. Sig Christenson, a reporter from San Antonio Express, slowly began to reveal the sex scandal issues at the basic military training facility in Texas and reported on most of the courts martials initiated by the Air Force. As a result of the escalating media coverage and other forces at play, it gave military sexual assault advocacy organizations a reason to request hearings in front of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressional hearings were held on January 23, 2013.  Both General Edward Rice and General Mark Welsh testified at this hearing along with two retired Air Force women and Dr. David Lisak. In the end, 35 Basic Military Training personnel were courts martialed for allegedly abusing trainees or sex related offenses. Now that the dust has settled and some time has passed, whistleblowers have disclosed that the Air Force investigations trampled on due process rights. And individuals were railroaded with collateral charges which forced them to take plea deals to avoid excessive punishments. Two were found guilty of rape and sentenced to twenty years. 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. This post was inspired by Never Leave an Airman Behind: How the Air Force Faltered & Failed in the Wake of the Lackland Sex Scandal by Lt Col Craig Perry, USAF Retired.

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Lackland Basic Military Training Instructor, SSgt Luis Walker, Sentenced to 20 Years in Prison for Rape & Sexual Assault, Commits Suicide at Leavenworth

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SSgt Luis Walker, US Air Force

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)

Lackland Air Force instructor faces sexual assault charges
Air Force sex scandal: Court-martial begins for Texas instructor
Woman says Lackland Air Force Base trainer attacked her
Drill sergeant texted explicit photos, U.S. Air Force trainee tells court
Four women testify in growing Air Force sex scandal
Sergeant charged in Air Force sex scandal a “predator”: Prosecutor
Air Force instructor convicted of rape in wide sexual misconduct investigation
Air Force Staff Sgt. Luis Walker guilty
Air Force instructor convicted of rape asks for leniency
Convicted Air Force Instructor Gets Twenty Years
Disgraced Air Force instructor sentenced to 20 years in sex scandal
SSgt Luis Walker, One Of The Lackland Air Force Rapists, Sentenced To 20 Years In Prison
Air Force instructor sentenced to 20 years in prison after raping female recruit and sexually assaulting several other women
Wife of Staff Sgt. Luis Walker: My husband is innocent
Release Of Former SSGT Luis Walker (Petition)
Lackland Rape Scandal Shines Spotlight On Military Failure
Lackland fallout: Rape victim turned whistleblower calls for congressional hearings
Attacked at 19 by an Air Force Trainer, and Speaking Out
Lackland Air Force Base Rape Victim Talks of Ordeal
A victim in the Air Force rape scandal breaks her silence
Survivor of sexual violence at Lackland Air Force Base speaks out
Lackland instructor’s victim speaks of trauma, fear
Lackland sex scandal prompts U.S. Air Force to discipline former commanders
Edward Rice, AF general who handled Lackland instructor scandals, retires
GI sex-assault victims face battle for disability benefits
United States vs SSgt Luis Walker, US Air Force (Court of Criminal Appeals)
Ex-Lackland instructor dead in apparent suicide
Ex-Air Force instructor in prison for sex assault dies
Convicted Rapist Found Dead in Cell at Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks
Results unclear for new sex assault safeguards at Air Force facilities
The Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal, Texas (2011)
A Complete List of the 35 Basic Military Training Instructors Court Martialed in the Lackland Air Force Base Sex Scandal

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

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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