Top Ten Problems with the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) Investigations

the-constitution-was-written-very-precisely-to-restrain-the-power-and-force-of-government-and-to-protect-the-liberties-of-each-and-every-one-of-us-ron-paul-2

Guest post submitted by:

Doug O’Connell
O’Connell & Associates, PLLC Doug@DougOConnell.com

Attorney Doug O’Connell has represented former Recruiting Assistants for the past two years in both criminal and civil matters. A former state and federal prosecutor, Doug is also a Special Forces Colonel in the Texas Army National Guard. In addition to his own practice, Doug is Of Counsel to Fluet, Huber + Hoang law firm.

The G-RAP accusations and investigations have now lingered for over five years. At least 90,430 (1) National Guard Soldiers (88% of all G-RAP participants) have been subjected to investigations as part of a massive dragnet to recover bonuses (2). 125 Soldiers have been prosecuted in Federal or State Courts; at least 2633 Soldiers remain under investigation (3). While a handful of unscrupulous participants took advantage of the ever-changing rules of this contractor-run program, those cases were adjudicated years ago. What the Army CID is now doing is nothing more than pursuing anyone whose G-RAP tenure spanned the years with the most rules’ changes in an effort to prove up the Army’s exaggerated fraud estimate.

It’s hard to pick the Top 10 issues with G-RAP. The items below represent issues apparent in almost every case. This list omits, but hardly overlooks, such things as inappropriate command pressure to participate in G-RAP, forcing accused Soldiers to undergo DNA collection (4), active surveillance of National Guard Soldiers by Army CID (5), coercion to make reimbursements to the Army (6) in lieu of punishment and other notable violations of Soldier’s rights.

1 Letter to Representative Mike Coffman from Daniel M. Quinn, Chief of Staff, USACIC.
2 The U.S. Army and U.S. Department of Justice consistently refers to G-RAP payments as bonuses in sworn testimony, official documents and court filings. The payments were paid by a contractor directly to the Soldier and IRS form 1099 was issued to every participant. Payments were not processed by DFAS and did not appear on a LES. Finally, Congress did not authorize a bonus related to this program. Nevertheless, Government officials consistently refer to G-RAP payments as bonuses, perhaps wishing it were true so that legal recoupment would be possible.
3 Per letter to Rep Coffman.
4 Collected by a cheek swab without a warrant in violation of the 4th Amendment.
5 Related to an allegation of fraud which if true occurred years prior.
6 Possibly an illegal augmentation of appropriations in violation of the Miscellaneous Receipts statute, 31 USC §3302.

1. GUILT BY ALGORITHM.

Auditors, instead of seasoned law enforcement professionals, launched the G-RAP investigations. Rather than using any type of proper legal standard like probable cause, the Army Audit Agency assembled lists of Soldiers branded “high risk” by the auditors. The definition for “High Risk” was listed as “an inability to follow the rules.” Because the rules changed 60 times in seven years, almost everyone who successfully participated in G-RAP became a target. Soldiers connected to the “high risk” Soldiers were in turn investigated. This self-perpetuating, system of guilt by association crushes any notion of justice and the rule of law. Years later, many of these Soldiers still are under the cloud of a CID investigation and are being forced to defend (at great financial and emotional cost) their names and careers.

2. COMPULSORY INTERROGATIONS.

Federal CID agents lack any authority to compel National Guard Soldiers (or veterans) to submit to interrogations. Unfortunately, neither CID nor most Guard Soldiers and veterans understand that they cannot be forced to appear or answer questions from Army-dispatched agents. CID agents repeatedly violate this bright line legal standard. Worse yet, some Guard Commanders aren’t sufficiently knowledgeable about the law to protect their Soldiers. Once confronted with apparent military authority, many individuals, honestly believing they did nothing wrong, provide answers, later cherry picked and twisted to supposedly show guilt. The unfortunate individual is left having to prove he or she didn’t say something or that the statement was taken out of context.

3. INVESTIGATORS WITH A PERSONAL FINANCIAL INCENTIVE.

The CID Investigators pursuing G-RAP allegations include Army Reserve CID Agents voluntarily on active duty orders. At a minimum, the perception exists that the Reserve Agents have a financial incentive to perpetuate the investigations. The longer the investigations continue, the longer these agents remain employed. Further compounding this problem is the very logical assumption that few agents would volunteer for active duty if it meant a pay cut from their civilian employment.

4. VIOLATIONS OF THE POSSE COMITATUS ACT.

National Guard Soldiers not mobilized into federal service, are like any other civilian citizen under the law. The Posse Comitatus Act prohibits federal military personnel from investigating and enforcing the law. Yet, that is exactly what is happening. The PCA is a federal criminal offense punishable by a term in prison. In the G-RAP investigations, federal military agents are investigating allegations of criminal violations by Guard Soldiers, who are the same as civilians under the law (7). This is a clear violation of the PCA. Unfortunately, this flawed law requires the same prosecutors who are prosecuting Soldiers to levy charges against the same agents investigating the cases they prosecute.

7 See Perprich vs. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990).

5. TRAMPLING THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS.

In our system of justice, a statue of limitations exists to limit the Government’s ability to bring charges so remote that the defendant can’t reasonably mount an effective defense. In G-RAP cases, the Government is circumventing the statue of limitations with a World War II era tolling statute. Most applicable criminal offenses have a 5 year statute of limitations. Since G-RAP ended in 2012 the statute of limitations has long expired in most cases. However, in G-RAP investigations and prosecutions the Government is relying on the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (8) to continue to bring criminal cases. First enacted in 1948, the WSLA is designed to protect the Country from fraud during times of war. This law likely made sense during World War II, the Korea and Vietnam conflicts. However, the nature of warfare has changed. The current war against terrorism and global extremist groups will continue indefinitely. Relying on the outdated WSLA during today’s conflicts effectively terminates the deeply rooted equitable concept of a statue of limitations.

8 18 USC §3287

6. SPENDING $40 MILLION -TO COLLECT $3 MILLION.

Our Government has spent at least an estimated $40 million dollars (9) to investigate Soldiers. The ensuing recoupment actions and prosecutions have recovered, at most $3 million dollars (10). Army CID agents have repeatedly conducted full field investigations to determine if a Soldier’s single $2,000.00 bonus was righteous (11). In an era of constrained defense spending with persistent and emerging global terrorist threats, this massive boondoggle sets a new record for fraud, waste and abuse. The CID agents’ limited time and resources would be much better spent working to prevent the next Fort Hood terrorist attack.

9 This is a conservative estimate which includes the personnel cost associated with bringing the USAR agents onto duty status.
10 This figure is also an estimate based on all federal cases reported in the Pacer.gov system and media reports from around the country.
11 At least one National Guard officer is currently under indictment for a single G-RAP recruitment.

7. INACCURATE TESTIMONY TO CONGRESS & POLITICAL PRESSURE

The entire G-RAP controversy is based on inaccurate and irresponsible testimony to Congress. During Senate hearings chaired by Senator Claire McCaskill (12), Army General Officers testified that the total G-RAP fraud could be as high as $99 million (13). This estimate was wildly inaccurate (14). To date, the Government has only collected $3 million in fraudulent payments. Senator McCaskill immediately branded these Soldiers as criminals despite their Constitutional right to be presumed innocent (15). Many have speculated that the hearings and estimates of widespread fraud were designed to embarrass the National Guard during budget battles. Others suggest that it was an attempt to appease this powerful member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and self styled “accountability advocate.” Still others contend that the hearings were an attempt to shift focus from sexual assaults in the military. Whatever the reason, the McCaskill hearing set off a chain of events abrogating the presumption of innocence justice toward service members and veterans.

12 United States Senate Hearing: Fraud and Abuse in Army Recruiting Contracts, February 4, 2014.
13 Id.
14 It appears that this testimony has never been revised, amended or updated to correct the record.
15 Id.

8. AT LEAST 60 CHANGES TO THE “RULES.”

In the eyes of CID, violations of the program “rules,” indicates intentional fraud worthy of criminal investigation. However, the G-RAP “rules” changed at least 60 times during the life of the program (16). Understanding the “rules” of G-RAP at any given point in time requires a detailed analysis based on a significant review of multiple documents (17). In the vast majority of cases, if the Soldier violated the “rules,” it is more likely due to confusion rather than a deliberate desire to cheat the system. With unrelenting intensity, CID doesn’t investigate an alleged crime; they gather slanted “evidence” to prove that a crime was committed. CID, in fact, has been responsible for elevating an inability to follow the rules of a program run by a private contractor to the level of a crime. One example: at various times full time members of the National Guard were authorized to participate in G-RAP, at other times they were ineligible. If a Soldier entered G-RAP when full time members were allowed, but submitted data for payment months later when full time members were not allowed, that Soldier is investigated for fraud.

16 See Agent’s Investigation Report, CID Special Agent Julie Thurlow, November 22, 2013.
17 National Guard Bureau changed the rules via a contract change order sent to Docupak.

9. “SPHERE OF INFLUENCE” AND OTHER VAGUE GUIDANCE.

Soldiers participating in G-RAP received instruction to recruit from their “sphere of influence.” This term was never defined. It’s unclear if the intent of this language was to limit recruitment to pre-existing relationships. Regardless of NGB’s intent, the Soldiers received a very different message. For example, once hired by Docupak, Soldiers were provided marketing items such as t-shirts with the message “ask me about the National Guard.” None of the marketing items provided would have been necessary to recruit people already known to the Soldier. Now, these same Soldiers are investigated and some prosecuted for recruiting outside their sphere of influence. Likewise, Soldiers were told that they “shouldn’t” wear their uniform when conducting recruiting activities. If this were truly a prohibited action worthy of investigation, the “rule” would have been written as “you are prohibited from wearing your uniform.”

10. “I DON’T REMEMBER = GUILTY.”

When CID agents track down and contact recruits many years after their enlistment into the National Guard, most don’t remember the details of their interaction with the recruiting assistant. To the CID agents, this means the RA committed misconduct. The alternative explanation is unfathomable to the agents: the recruit, 7 years later, just doesn’t remember. This is especially problematic since Government prosecutors use this lack of memory to charge the Soldier with Aggravated Identity Theft (18), a charge that carries a mandatory minimum term of prison sentence of two years.

18 18 USC § 1028A.

“EXTRA CREDIT:” CID KNEW ABOUT ALLEGED FRAUD FOR FIVE YEARS BEFORE TAKING ACTION.

On May 22, 2007, five years before G-RAP was shut down, Agents from Army CID, Air Force OSI, and Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS) met with Docupak to discuss potential fraud in the program (19). A representative of the United States Department of Justice (20) was also in attendance. The agents specifically instructed Docupak not to notify the State Adjutant Generals, National Guard Bureau, or the contracting officer regarding alleged fraud. This effectively cut off any ability to clarify confusing rules and or enhance fraud prevention measures. Importantly, it also prevented Governors and Adjutants General to execute their Constitutional duty of regulating their National Guard force and apply appropriate discipline (21). Likewise, notification the responsible contracting officer at NGB would have triggered remedial action. Instead, the CID sat on this information for five years, causing a relatively minor amount of confusion to escalate into what we have now – another major bonus scandal ensnaring thousands of junior Soldiers facing accusations.

19 2014 Inspector General Report, page 40, paragraph g, and footnote 142.
20 Presumably a licensed attorney.
21 The Governor’s and TAG’s Constitutional authority to regulate and discipline Guard members included the full time recruiting force in each state, some of whom were suspected of misconduct. These Soldiers operate under the exclusive military jurisdiction of the relevant State Military Code of Justice.

CONCLUSION

Few Soldiers have the financial resources to mount a proper defense to federal criminal charges. Faced with the possibility of prison time, many take a plea bargain to avoid the risk of prison, financial ruin or deepening emotional trauma to themselves and their families. Even if the accused Soldiers are not prosecuted, the collateral consequences seem never ending. The investigation will continue to haunt them for years to come. Security clearances will be revoked or suspended, and the Government will initiate proceedings to “debar” the Soldier from future employment as a government contractor. Eventually, the case file will be forwarded to the State National Guard headquarters for military justice or administrative action. The range of administrative sanctions includes separation boards, official reprimands and being required to rebut CID’s flawed conclusions to a promotion review board. The administrative flag on their personnel file will continue until all military administrative actions are complete (22). Finally, many of these same Soldiers, never prosecuted in a court of law will have a federal criminal history created as a result of being investigated, “titled” and “founded” by CID.

22 A “flag” prevents any favorable action including re-enlisting, awards, and promotions. The flag does not prevent orders to deploy overseas (again). Flags as a result of G-RAP investigations have been in place for four or more years at this point.

Lt Col Teresa James Shares Experience with Sexual Assault & Reprisal at DoD IG Worldwide Hotline Outreach Conference

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The Department of Defense Inspector General’s office held a Worldwide Hotline Outreach Conference today July 28, 2016. One of their keynote speakers was Lt Col Teresa James, US Army, Retired, highlighted before on this site. The DoD IG twitter feed shared excerpts from her presentation summarized below. As she spoke, I tweeted with them to bring awareness to the specifics that Lt Col James noted and why they are so important. For a complete listing of the tweets by the DoD IG, please visit their Twitter feed here.

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If You Look at the Dollars, Guard Recruiting Assistance Program Investigations Make No Sense

Guest Post Submitted By Liz Ullman

“We are looking at spending over $600,000 of tax payer dollars for $2,000 that was allegedly stolen, most likely over 3-6 years ago, under a program that was deemed to be flawed, mismanaged and inherently opaque by the US Army’s own leadership.”

10456822-Cash-dollar-signs-Texture--Stock-Photo-bill It is true, that our forefathers set out to create a judicial system that blindly judged the accused in a manner that afforded them the opportunity to receive a fair trial, regardless of race, sex, beliefs, political stature or societal standings. However, as shown in the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP) scandal, it appears today’s judicial system is more about your ability to secure good lawyers and your civil status than it is about determining guilt versus innocence.

Most soldiers charged for their participation in G-RAP cannot afford an attorney. They are bullied by Army Criminal Investigative Command (CID) Agents to take polygraphs, provide incomplete statements (which are then used as evidence against them) and to accept a plea for criminal acts they did not commit. Without adequate counsel these service members are given ultimatums or forced to accept deals that leave them powerless. At best they are issued overworked public defenders who place them in a pool of other criminals including rapist, murderers and thieves. Soldiers are pushed to take plea bargains by the prosecution in an effort to give CID a quick victory and take the case off the public defender’s plate. However, this system puts a hefty burden on the soldier regardless of what road they take.

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The Conspiracy Behind the G-RAP War on American Soldiers

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Guard Recruiting Assistance Program

Guest Post Submitted by Darron Smith

In a complicated, twisted tale of alleged corruption and betrayal over budgetary wars, a presumed cover-up simmers at a colossal scale between the Army and the National Guard. Soldiers are the exploited pawns in the largest politically motivated fraud investigation ever conducted by a military component against its own forces. This may sound like suspenseful fiction, but as many National Guardsmen and women can attest, this is all too real. An estimated 24,000 National Guard soldiers have been caught in the dragnet, which all stems from a successful military-enlistment recruiting program that financially compensated citizen-soldiers who aided in efforts to boost military strength. Documents and public records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act along with credible sources points to a disturbing persecution of soldiers and veterans as well as the batch processing of mass indictments.

At a time when US forces were scattered among Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan, the overall end strength numbers were low. Army National Guard Director, Lt. General Clyde A. Vaughn (ret), and his staff had an idea to resupply the branches with fresh bodies—make anyone a potential recruiter by offering a financial incentive of $2,000.00 for each successful enlistment. Vaughn deeply felt that a peer-enlistment program might ease the hemorrhaging of a nationwide manpower shortage. And he was correct. The program, dubbed G-RAP (Guard Recruiting Assistance Program), ran from 2005-2012 and was an enormous success, as it replenished the ranks. Other branches of the military ultimately mirrored that recruiting program, but none to the magnitude of the NGB (National Guard Bureau). And none of them received the amount of government money that the Guard received to achieve this success.

Though G-RAP stood as a great achievement in strengthening the reserve forces, by 2012, all RAPs (Recruiting Assistance Programs) were suspended indefinitely, primarily due to media publicity of widespread fraud. NGB took the most heat, consistently projected as having lost upwards of $100 million. The truth, however, has been largely obscured. After four years of costly investigations, only $2 to 3 million “has been successfully prosecuted in civil courts.” But what is more disconcerting is that NGB, routinely criticized for its lack of oversight, no longer had the supervision in their control. Based on a previously unpublished Army Inspector General Report, a closed door meeting took place in May 2007 where it was decided by an ad hoc committee comprised of representatives from Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID), Defense Criminal Investigation Service (DCIS) and the Air Force Office of Special Bureau (AFSOI) “that Docupak would turn over any suspected occurrences of fraud directly to CID,” and that NGB, specifically the State Adjutants General (TAG), would be deliberately left out of the information loop. The rationale given at the time was that the DCIS did not want interference from high-ranking Guard officials.

There is evidence, however, that some TAGs were successfully handling all reported incidents of fraud internally in their own states up until that point with detection and prevention controls. It was not until these controls were halted in the May 2007 meeting that the Guard lost the ability to monitor, discipline and correct such incidents of fraud. Perplexingly, all of this was done without the Guard’s knowledge. In a recent interview in the Washington Times, General Vaughn reported that “he was kept in the dark” about the occurrence of fraud in the field and that CID purposely did not inform him about fraud cases. “No one can correct a problem if you do not know it exists,” stated Vaughn.

The CID did not have any prerogative to make such changes to regulation, as it would require a Congressional act; yet, in 2009 (and again in 2014), changes were made to the CID Manual that removed the language to report crimes through the TAG. But simply changing the manual did not mean it was constitutional to do so under the sovereign rights of each state and US territories. What’s more, there has been discussion in legal circles as to whether or not CID is operating outside its jurisdiction in the investigation of National Guard members. According to the Constitution as well as Department of Defense Directives (DoDD) 5105.77, the NGB is under the direct command of the state TAG and ultimately the governor unless a battalion has been mobilized for federal duty, at which point they then fall under Title 10 (active duty status) and the command of the President. The majority of those indicted are known as “M-day soldiers.” In other words, they are “weekend warriors” working for the Guard once a month and two weeks a year in official drill status (aka, Title 32). If an individual under Title 32 were to come under some criminal deed, it is the role of the TAG to take action. In fact, the TAGs have guidance on enforcing discipline and protecting soldier’s rights as it is articulated in the 2015 Commander’s Legal Handbook. The CID, as a faction of the big Army, only has command over Title 10 soldiers; it does not, to this day, have any authority over most members of the National Guard in these investigations, save a select few individuals who were deployed on active duty while participating in G-RAP.

This then raises the question, why is the regular Army harassing National Guard soldiers and violating their constitutional rights in the first place? Most of the soldiers under suspicion for theft of government property are not subject to regular Army discipline. Before that question can be answered, there is another piece of the puzzle to be scrutinized—the alarming results of CID’s investigations.

The U.S. Army Audit Agency had concern regarding the potential of individual fraud within RAPs. After reviewing over 150,000 enlistments ($339 million in payments), the June 2012 Audit identified 3,200 soldiers in the fraud-risk assessment. They found 1,256 recruiters suspicious of medium to high risk for fraud. Additionally, there were 2,022 RAs that “potentially violated program rules.” Of those RAs, only a quarter of them were found to be intentional acts. The remaining 1,400 recruiting assistants appeared to have unknowingly and unintentionally violated the rules of G-RAP, which is entirely plausible considering there were 60 changes to G-RAP rules during its seven years in existence .

This report fueled an investigation of another style from the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight. Despite the Audit’s fraud findings, the Army CID quickly dispatched approximately 200 field investigators under “Task Force Raptor” to scrutinize all 106,364 individuals who participated in G-RAP for any possibility of fraud. Senator Claire M. McCaskill (D, MO) set a directive that CID should flood the nation’s landscape and courageously return ill-gotten dollars to the American taxpayers. CID agents were encouraged to flash badges, obtain DNA swabs, issue polygraph tests and secure fingerprints in an effort to scare soldiers into revealing any useful material that could be later used against them. One former CID agent admitted that they were urged to lie to potential witnesses and persons-of-interest if usable information could be extracted. They were then instructed to report the numbers of potential indictments back to Senator McCaskill’s office on a quarterly basis, ostensibly to ensure they were meeting her demands of accountability. But a federal indictment of fraud is a crime requiring specific intent. In other words, conviction relies on the government’s ability prove the individual knew of the specific rules and guidelines and intentionally broke them for monetary enrichment.

Nevertheless, CID’s report prepared for the February 2014 Senate Subcommittee hearing led by Senator McCaskill found over 22,000 soldiers associated with payments that were at risk for fraud. This number is over seven times greater than the original Army Audit estimation at a rate of 1.7-3%. The FBI estimates that insurance fraud—one of the highest areas of civilian fraud—is at a rate of 3-10% of all insurance cases. Conversely, CID is now suggesting that those who proudly wear the uniform are felons at a rate of over 20%. Put differently, 1 in 5 soldiers are alleged criminals, 2 to 7 times more likely to commit fraud than the civilian population. This is clear evidence that these claims are audacious.

How is it possible that so many service members are accused of fraud? How is it that the CID investigations found an additional 18,000-20,000 offenders from the Audit’s estimation? Is it possible that this is a witch-hunt? This fishing expedition turned into a conspiracy theory as Sen. McCaskill stated, “I mean, it is almost like word got out and nobody was paying attention, and all of a sudden everybody was, okay, the bank is open. Let us go for it.” The moderate democrat further opined, “I mean there is no way that there was not a culture of people saying, hey, here is the deal. There is a bounty and we know these people are signing up.” But rather than a vast number of soldiers intentionally scamming the government they swore to protect, a much more plausible answer would be that most all were following a set of murky rules as they understood them.

Senator McCaskill’s supposed effort directed to bring about justice for the American people instead turned into a catastrophe where the wrath eventually rolled downhill to the most vulnerable of peoples, our service members. Let off the hook were Docupak and military Brass who were responsible for the proper administration and oversight of G-RAP. One possible explanation for the morass is a skirmish over federal defense dollars when the Guard received the lion share of contract monies to operate G-RAP. Or perhaps it is something as simple as an attempt to justify the military drawdown of troops currently underway. This time, the scapegoat would be the American soldier, more specifically National Guardsman, as McCaskill’s goons sought to manufacture felons. Unfortunately, those are the casualties of politics, but these service members deserve more. They deserve answers and accountability from our leaders.

[1] Unpublished U.S. Army Inspector General Agency Report of Investigation (ROI) (Recruiting Assistance Program) 2014.
[2] Memorandum from U.S. Army Audit Agency to Recruiting Assistance Program Task Force Regarding Audit of Recruiting Assistance Programs – Reserve Components (June 4, 2012) (Report A 2012 0115 IEF), Enclosure 1.
[3] CID Investigators report (G-RAP Training) Nov, 2013.

Learn more at Stop G-RAP Injustice on Facebook.

California National Guard Military Sexual Assault Bill Becomes Law

National GuardA 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.

Read more here.

Related link: Military Women: We Got Fired for Being Rape

Military Women: We Got Fired for Being Raped

National GuardNew legislation in Iowa would address sexual assault and retaliation in the National Guard

“I was one of many that had a career ended shortly because I simply reported a sexual assault,” Jennifer Norris said.

Norris retired as a technical sergeant from the United States Air Force in 2010 and also served in the Maine and Massachusetts National Guards. Norris testified before Congress that during her military career, she was sexually assaulted four times between 1996 and 1998. She says after she finally reported the attacks to her supervisor, she faced retaliation.

“I went back and was blown away at how much disdain and hatred I faced as a result of standing up for what was right and protecting other women,” Norris said. “That right in and of itself was the biggest betrayal I ever experienced in my life….When you have zero support and you are alone, it will push you to the place Jessica Brown has been. I have been there.”

Read more here.

Alaska National Guard Updates Military Justice Code (2016)

National GuardSexual Assault Prevention and Response Program

Alaska National Guard unit being investigated for allegations of sexual misconduct
Alaska National Guard Responds to Allegations of Sexual Assault
Alleged Alaska National Guard Sexual Assault Victim Speaks Out
National Guard Sexual Assault Survivor Speaks Out
Rape victim says Alaska National Guard violated her confidentiality
Scathing report on Alaska National Guard forces out commander
The Three-Headed Monster
Alaska National Guard recruiter fights accusations of misconduct
Alaska National Guard Sex Abuse Scandal Threatens GOP Governor’s Re-election
National Guard documents detail chronic misconduct among recruiting leaders
Alaska National Guard condoned ‘weapons smuggling, rape, and drug trafficking’
Alaska Gov. Walker names new Guard adjutant general
First woman commander of Alaska National Guard: ‘no old boys network’
It’s time for action to protect our Alaska National Guard
State releases 4,000-plus email pages in Alaska National Guard scandal
Special Investigator’s Report on Alaska National Guard Sexual Harassment and Abuse Issues
Report: Inadequate records kept of National Guard complaints
Report cites command climate problems in Alaska Guard probe
Alaska National Guard investigation results confirm mishandling of complaints
National Guard pilot’s experience as sexual assault victim singled out
Investigator calls for Alaska National Guard reform on sexual assaults
Broken Trust: How whistle-blowers and victims in the Alaska National Guard went unheard
Alaska National Guard calls for new military code
Alaska National Guard presses lawmakers to adopt new military code
Alaska House passes bill updating military justice code
In wake of National Guard scandal, House passes reforms to Alaska military justice code
Alaska House of Representatives Unanimously Approves Code of Military Justice for the Alaska National Guard
Alaska Code of Military Justice: HB 126 and the Alaska National Guard
Legislation: Alaska House Bill 60: Military: Sexual Assault
Governor Walker Applauds Adoption of Alaska Code of Military Justice
Governor to sign update to Alaska’s military justice code

Personal Story and Testimony of TSgt. Jennifer Norris, US Air Force Retired, Before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington DC (2013)

Jennifer Norris

Jennifer Norris, USAF Ret.

It 
is 
with 
a 
heavy 
heart 
that 
I 
sit 
here 
today. 
Because, 
I
 am 
not 
only 
speaking 
for 
myself 
but 
I
 am 
speaking 
for 
thousands 
and 
thousands 
of 
male 
and
 female
 survivors, 
both 
military
 and 
civilian, 
whose 
lives 
have 
been
 forever 
altered 
by 
the 
military’s 
sexual 
assault 
epidemic, 
a
 culture 
that punishes 
the 
victim
, and 
a 
broken 
military 
justice
 system.

Core 
issues 
must
 be 
addressed. 
The 
military 
justice
 system
 elevates 
an individual’s
 discretion 
over 
the 
rule 
of 
law. 
The 
system 
is 
encumbered 
with personal 
bias, 
conflicts of interest and abuse of authority. The cycle of repeated 
scandals,
 self‐investigations, 
and
 ineffective reforms must be broken. Click here for full House Armed Services Committee testimony.

I 
want
 to
 recognize 
the 
service
members 
who 
have 
not 
survived
 due 
to
 non‐combat
 deaths, murder, 
and 
suicide 
and 
their 
families 
who 
are 
still 
waiting
 for 
answers. -Jennifer Norris, USAF Retired

Please note the same day of the military sexual assault hearings before the House Armed Services Committee on January 23, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta announced the Pentagon was lifting the women in combat ban.

Personal Story:

I am older now and I have had a lot of time to reflect back on what happened to me. And it is now evident to me that I am one of many who have experienced the same kind of treatment simply because I reported sexual assault by a fellow, higher-ranking soldier.

I was raised by a father who worked hard as a logger his entire life. He taught me early in my childhood that I was equal with my brothers. I was expected to help prepare the firewood every season, I was expected to help mow the fields, and I was included in any and all activities. I grew up in a small town and never once experienced someone trying to harm me in a violent way or discrimination based solely on my gender. I grew up with a sense of confidence and determination that I could do anything I wanted to with my life. That is the American dream, right?

I learned quickly after joining the USAF that I had stepped into a whole new world, one that eventually made me feel like I was dealing with an underground mob. Shortly after I enlisted, I was invited to a “new recruit” party. I was really excited to attend so that I could meet others who were also going through the excitement and fear of becoming a soldier. Instead I became the victim of a calculating predator who used the “party” as a way to set up his attack. And, as I commonly see in many of the cases in my work as a victim advocate, he used alcohol as his weapon. When he was unable to pressure me to drink, he used whatever means necessary to incapacitate his victim. When I was raped, I was chemically restrained and could not move; yet I knew what was happening to me. In my works as a victim advocate, I frequently saw this same modus operandi.

I didn’t report that crime and here is why. I could not face that it happened. I didn’t want to start out my military career like that and so I determined that I would never talk about it to anyone. From that day forward, I avoided the recruiter at all costs and soldiered on. I have never seen him since.

I had an amazing basic training experience at Lackland. My military training instructor was SSgt Knight and that professional NCO taught me how to be a good follower and he also believed in my leadership skills.

The majority of the people that I served with were amazing, inspiring individuals who truly were dedicated to the mission. But just like me, there are far too many who fall victim to manipulation and abuse of authority by perpetrators who are higher ranking and have more credibility with those who are in charge. We have no choice but to acquiesce when under the leadership of a heavy fisted Chain of Command.

I was assaulted a second time at Keesler Air Force Base after Basic Training by my instructor. I was attending Satellite and Wideband Communications technical school. I was there for 6 months. While there, I learned very quickly that if you reported sexual harassment, assault, or were offended by someone’s lewd and crude remarks that you will be quickly turned out of the Air Force. So, I planned to get through it, go back home and serve with the Maine Air National Guard, where I thought I would be safe. I just sucked it up and kept my mouth shut so I could graduate. I watched an Active Duty Air Force female, who to this day is one of my best friends, get swiftly booted from the military, after she reported that one of her instructor’s made derogatory remarks to her during class. This girl was 19 years old. The military training managers engaged in what appeared to be a witch-hunt and looked for anything and everything to kick her out. In the end, they were successful. Today she suffers severe PTSD from this experience.

A few very significant things happened while I was at Keesler. One of the female airman that I was going to school with admitted that she had sex with her recruiter. This conversation was in the presence of another Maine Air National Guardsman who shared that the same recruiter who raped me had also sexually assaulted his cousin, who as a result did not join the military. When he explained to me how it occurred, my blood began to boil with rage because I recognized the pattern immediately. The recruiter had done the same thing to me and I determined I was going to press charges against him, when I returned home, to stop him from harming anyone else.

The Post Traumatic Stress, which I didn’t realize I had, kicked in to overdrive after learning this information. I wanted to take action. I did an impulsive thing. I called up the recruiter who raped me and told him I was going to press charges against him and that I knew what he had done to another girl as well. He quickly hung up on me. My thinking was maybe just maybe he would be too scared to try this again.

About two weeks before graduation from Keesler, I was performing a maintenance loop on a mobile satellite communications van as part of the testing to move on to the next block. I had it down. I loved my job and everything stuck. For this test, we needed to step inside the enclosed satellite communications maintenance van. The instructor shut the door and stood there with his clipboard behind me while I configured the van. Shortly after starting the task, he came up from behind me, attacked me, pushed me into the wall of the van, rubbed his groin area on my body and whispered in my ear, “let me help you, let me help you.” Those words trigger me to this day.

I got angry, I flipped out and pushed him away and told him not to touch me ever again. He was surprised and didn’t say a word. My fight or flight response had kicked into overdrive and my anxiety was so high that I was shaking while I finished configuring that van and waited for him to give me permission to leave the enclosed van. But, I did it. I passed the test.

Unfortunately, it did not end there. This TSgt told me to stay behind after class. Because I could not disobey a direct order without consequences, I stayed only for him to tell me that he was going to fail me for attitude even though I passed the final test. I immediately broke down and started crying. All I could say is why are you doing this to me? Why? I begged him to reconsider. He told me to report the next morning an hour before the rest of the class and he would reconsider. I did not do as ordered and I never saw him again.

Instead of going to school the next morning, I instead went to the Air National Guard liaison, who I had established a nice relationship with, and I informed her that my instructor wanted to fail me for attitude, despite passing my test. The Guard gave the TSgt. a call. He acquiesced and I was told to report to my next class. While at Keesler, I never saw him again. I did not report this crime for a number of reasons. First I witnessed first hand what happens when you report that type of behavior. Second, I was only two weeks away from graduation, and, third, I did not want an investigation launched and risk being stuck on that base with that predator. Lastly, I did not want to be stigmatized as a female who alleges sexual assault before I had even entered the operation Air Force. These fears and attitudes exist to this very day.

When I got back to the Maine Air National Guard, the recruiter was gone. He had quit his full time AGR position, which rarely happens in the National Guard. He was a MSgt and he effectively gave up his career and his retirement. He moved to North Carolina. I was so relieved that he was gone. Again, I did not report because I knew I could potentially lose my career. I let myself become excited about starting my new career. I planned on staying in for 20 plus years and despite being raped and assaulted in the first year of my career, I loved being in the military, I loved my job, and I loved being a part of a family and a team.

I thought I would be safe at the Maine Air National Guard. The Commander put me to work as soon as I got back from Technical School to help me transition back into civilian life and I totally excelled and became a superior performer. As a result, unbeknownst to me my Commander asked my NCOIC to coordinate hiring me as temporary federal technician. My NCOIC notified me and began the hiring process. I was ecstatic beyond belief and made the most money I had ever made for doing a job I loved!

Shortly after beginning my job, I noticed that the Maintenance Superintendent, also my NCOIC, and boss began treating me differently than the guys. It made me feel uncomfortable, because I didn’t want the guys I worked with to be resentful. But, I also knew that I was a great troop, so I ate up all the extra responsibility that was assigned thinking he must recognize that I am a true leader. No, that was not the case at all. Eerily similar to the recruiter, my NCOIC was beginning to set up his attack. He began assigning me jobs that would isolate me so that he could make his move. He would give me the assignment, then show up unexpectedly to “check in on me,” but instead forced himself on me every chance he got. I could not escape. The abuse escalated over time and he became more abusive the more I resisted and told him NO. His attitude was that I should be flattered that he wanted me. I was in pain. I was there to do a job, to serve my country, why must I deal with this?

The more I fought him off and begged him to stop, the more he would escalate. He regularly forced himself on me, but when I fought back, he called me names and belittled me. He would tell me that my breasts were too small and tell me that it would be in my best interest. I was too scared to report this behavior because he was the Commander’s right hand man. And in the military, rank does come with its privileges including the higher rank you are the more credibility you have with the Commander. After what happened with the recruiter and the technical school instructor, I was already fearful of rank and abuse of authority.

Meanwhile, while my NCOIC was sexually assaulting me and abusing me during the week, there was another National Guardsman, who was considered a weekend warrior, doing the same exact thing to me. I did my best to stay clear of both but they would sneak up on me when I was least expecting it. It was like it became a sick game for them. To this day, I cannot handle anyone coming up behind me or hovering near me. I watched both of them escalate while I felt powerless to do anything about it, if I wanted to save my career. After a while, they did it in front of people as well and nobody said or did anything. Why would bystanders put their career at risk for me? I felt totally isolated.

One night when my NCOIC attempted to rape me in a drunken rage, I started screaming and someone heard me. I escaped but I fell apart. I turned into an emotionless robot. I continued to do a good job but I was dying inside. My attitude began to suffer. I was looking for a way out. One day, one of the professional NCOs in our squadron approached me and said he was concerned about me. I had just received an award for Superior Performer during an Operational Readiness Exercise, but I wanted to get out and he wanted to know why. All it took was that one person showing genuine concern and care for the floodgates to open.

I immediately started crying and opened up to him forgetting that by military law, he was supposed to report any crimes that he became aware of. I begged him not to report because I was afraid that it would end my career. He told me if I did not report that he would. I then reported all four of the perpetrators to my Commander.

The Commander initially doubted me. It was not until after I provided him with proof that he raised from a seating position in anger and screamed with powerful emotion, “he betrayed me.” The Commander then told me he had instructed my NCOIC to hire me because of my excellent work performance. We discussed the recruiter and he admitted he was confused why the recruiter suddenly gave up his career and retirement, but it all made sense to him now. All of these predators appeared to be stellar troops. All of them had histories of sexually assaulting others.

In many ways, I am one of the lucky ones, which is sad to say. My Commander believed me. He did the best he could to handle the case against my NCOIC and his friend given the complexities involved. He strove to be fair, neutral, and impartial. I was forced to leave the Squadron if I wanted to be safe, while he conducted the investigation. Because he could only investigate on Guard weekends, the case got dragged out for months. While I was isolated at Headquarters, the two predators were able to stay and inject their version of how things went down. They had all that time to convince many in the squadron that I was the bad guy. After they admitted guilt the day prior to the administrative hearing, they were both forced to leave my squadron and I was allowed to return.

Sounds like a success story right? Wrong. My Commander deemed the crimes sexual assault. When the crimes were reported to the Adjutant General for the state, it somehow became sexual harassment. Our only recourse was to file an EEO complaint. I filed the complaints against two of the four perpetrators, because we didn’t have jurisdiction over the Active Duty Air Force Technical School Instructor and the Recruiter had skipped town. I had no one assisting me.

I was contacted by the one of the perpetrator’s lawyer both on the phone and in writing. I never responded. While waiting for the investigation to conclude, I was physically attacked by a friend of one of the perpetrator’s. I pressed charges but unfortunately the civilian authorities did not pursue the case. I told my Commander and he said there was nothing he could do because it happened off base. The day before I was to go to the Administrative Hearings for the “trial” of my NCOIC and his friend both of them copped a plea. They agreed to the punishments that the Commander recommended. The Commander told me they were willing to plead guilty. He asked if I was okay with it so he could proceed with removing them from the Squadron. I was so tired and beat down by this point that I just wanted it to be over. I wanted to go back to work and resume the career that I loved. When I agreed to the terms of the punishment it caused the EEO complaint to be withdrawn. Therefore, the Maine Air National Guard either didn’t have to report the crimes at all to the Pentagon or they could report the crimes as sexual harassment.

The punishment imposed by the Commander was that both perpetrators were permitted to agree to resign in lieu of Administrative Hearings, which would have become a matter of public record. I wasn’t offered the chance to proceed with a court martial. I was glad they were gone, but the reason I pressed charges was to prevent any other woman from having to go through this. My efforts were futile. I was told that because my NCOIC had over 18 years of service that he was allowed to stay in the military until he reached his twenty years. When he reached his twenty, he would be forced out. No sex offender record, nothing. Because we didn’t have as much evidence against the other perpetrator, the National Guardsman, he was kicked out of the Maine Air National Guard and given a LOR. He was discharged honorably; he joined the New Hampshire Air National Guard. Ironically, the last time I saw him he was in charge of a training conference I was attending and he was a MSgt working at the Pentagon. Both of these perpetrators retired with full military benefits. Meanwhile, I was retaliated against by the enlisted Chain of Command.

In 2006, The NCO in the Maine Air National Guard, who had me physically beat, was found guilty of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident in another case. But because he had a top-secret security clearance he somehow got off. And as I went back to my squadron, I had to work with this man. I tried to pull myself together and continue with my career, but instead I was met with resistance from almost everyone I encountered. I was the bad guy, because I made the predators lose their jobs. As a cruel joke, men literally hugged the wall as I passed by pretending I might falsely accuse them of assault. I was treated like a leper. I was pulled from leadership positions. I was denied training I needed to become eligible for my SSgt stripe. I continually asked to complete my training and was called a spoiled brat, by the Officer in Charge. And I was assigned menial tasks that isolated me. By this time, the Commander who investigated the case had been promoted to Headquarters and a new Commander was in charge. He depended heavily on the enlisted chain of command and was willing to sell me out for the mission.

I felt like an outcast and people did not hide their disdain for me. I had no more fight left in me. I didn’t want to give up my career, so I transferred to the Massachusetts National Guard, which was a four-hour drive one way. It was the only way to continue my career progression and promotions. I needed to remain in the same career field, at least until I was a TSgt.

I went from one snake’s pit to another. My old squadron called up my new squadron and informed them that I was a troublemaker. A person, in my enlisted chain of command, shared this with me when I asked why everyone was treating me so badly. I was met with resistance from the get go, despite the fact that I was a super troop and worked very hard at my job. While serving at the Massachusetts Air National Guard, I experienced gender discrimination. I was held to double standards. If others came in late, it was no big deal. If I came in one minute late, I was getting hauled into an office for a big meeting with 3 or 4 people. My new Commander recognized my skills and considered me a subject matter expert. He even hired me during the week to help keep things running smoothly because of the multiple deployments the squadron endured after 9/11. I helped keep things running smoothly back home and continued to train all the new airmen that came into the squadron. We had a lot of folks leave after their first deployment and the only ones left were the ones who wanted to be there. As a result, we got a lot of new airman.

My new squadron Commander recognized that I was a superior performer and promoted me to SSgt shortly after transferring to that base. The Maine Air National Guard would not give me my SSgt stripe claiming that I lacked leadership skills, despite the fact that I was an Airman Leadership School instructor, not only met the standards but exceeded them, including going to Airman Leadership School in person, unlike a lot of National Guardsman. And, I had to fight the Massachusetts Air National Guard for my TSgt stripe despite the fact that I had not only met the standards but also far exceeded them. I had become a very effective satellite communications trainer and had a record set up time. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the day that my NCOIC told me that he was going to make one of the Airman that I trained the Team Chief. I had 8 years in the field, while this airman had only two. I demanded to see the First Shirt regarding this issue because I didn’t want to turn this into an EEO issue.

My Chain of Command eventually acquiesced and gave me my TSgt stripe and the Team Chief position. I was the most qualified to do the job. But, this job came with big consequences. Instead of supporting me in my position, I was overworked, blamed for things out of my control, and not respected. I was left with no support or direction so I had to come in during the week and teach myself. After teaching myself, I would then create standard operating procedures to help train my troops. I always trained myself out of a job because I took serving seriously. If anything was to happen to me, I needed to have people that could seamlessly pick up where I left off.

After months of setting me up to fail they threatened to pull my TSgt stripe from me as a punishment for “substandard performance.” They had been planning it for quite some time because by this time, they had the Commander on their side and I didn’t stand a chance. As a result, I filed an EEO complaint against my NCOIC for gender discrimination. I chose to report informally because I had been through a formal reporting process before. I did not have the energy.

My Commander conducted his investigation and determined that my allegations could not be substantiated, but in the same breath told me that I could have anything I wanted. All I wanted was to go to my planned NCO Academy School and be transferred out of that squadron. I also no longer wanted to work for my abusive and belittling boss and refused to return back to satellite communications. Again, not a huge victory but at least I was able to escape that horribly oppressive environment. By this time in my career, I was beginning to unravel and feel completely ready to break. I decided to transfer back to the Maine Air National Guard and this time I chose a critical career field where women might be treated a little better than in the maintenance field. My boss was promoted to SMSgt shortly after.

I met my husband at Keesler while attending another training school in 2001. We finally made the commitment to one another in 2005 even though I realized I was severely damaged by the rape, sexual harassment, sexual assault, abuse, retaliation, and gender discrimination. Love is the only thing that pulled me through this relationship, because I was literally incapable of having interpersonal relationships. I was hardened, damaged, hyper vigilant, and defensive.

Because of him, I reached out to the VA when I found out that they finally were treating Military Sexual Trauma. I have been getting counseling and treatment at the VA since 2006. As a result of getting that help, I was forced to list on my security clearance form that I was receiving counseling for military sexual trauma. The security clearance folks wanted a release of information signed so they could gain access to my medical records from the VA. I signed them, out of fear. But, then called the VA and revoked it, essentially ending my career. I did not want to jeopardize my future career opportunities because I had been labeled and diagnosed with PTSD from military sexual assault.

After being medically retired from the Air Force for PTSD due to MST, I felt like a fish out of water. I had no purpose in life. I was taking a ton of prescription medications, to help me feel less angry, depressed, and help me live without constant anxiety and fear. I felt like I had lost my life’s dream and there was no reason to live anymore. I came very close to ending my own life, because I felt broken, damaged, and unsure of myself. I literally felt like I was invisible and what I thought or felt did not matter. I wanted to die because I basically got fired for being raped.

Working with veterans and active duty personnel who are victims of military sexual assault, I came to recognize that I had been shamed into silence. My fellow veterans helped me find my voice again.

If anyone ever tells you that women are the weaker sex, don’t you believe it.

Related Links:
Jennifer Norris, USAF Full HASC Testimony
Jennifer Norris, USAF HASC Personal Story (PoD)
Jennifer Norris, USAF HASC Testimony (C-SPAN Video)
The Battle Within: Examining Rape in America’s Military (Photos)
Women in Combat: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta Lifts Pentagon Ban
Now That Women Are Cleared For Combat, How About A Rape-Free Workplace?
Time to act on sexual assault in the military, Susan Collins says
Senator Susan Collins Leads Effort to Reform Military Justice System to Address Sexual Assaults (Military Justice Improvement Act)
Sexual assault victim, “The system is rigged”
Claire McCaskill’s ‘lonely’ sex-assault stand
The war in Congress over rape in the military, explained
Letter of Support for Save Our Heroes in Our Shared Quest for Military Justice Reform & Constitutional Rights
Massachusetts School of Law Interviews Veteran Jennifer Norris About Violent Crime in the Military & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
What Happens When a Rape is Reported in the Military?