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Lackland's instructor-on-rainbow sex crimes, told by one who lived the nightmare

Photo: Chuck Kerr, License: N/A

Chuck Kerr

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Colleen Bushnell

In 1973, women accounted for 2 percent of armed forces. By 2011, they made up roughly 16 percent; more than any other branch, the Air Force — at 22 percent female — employs the highest number of women.

The Air Force's 37th Training Wing is the branch's only site for enlisted basic military training, meaning San Antonio churns out some 35,000 graduates a year. For every 50 new recruits — sometimes called "Rainbows" — there are one or two instructors overseeing the unit. "I can say as a woman I believe the Air Force is accommodating to women and women are treated equally," said Col. Polly S. Kenny, an Air Force attorney and adviser to the 2nd Air Force commander in charge of basic training.

Kenny references the military's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, formed in 2005 to deal strictly with military rape, which set up a 24-hour global hotline, trained hundreds of sexual response coordinators throughout the branches, and tacked up posters in military instillations encouraging servicemen and women to report assault.

Since the sex cases at Lackland have surfaced, Kenny says command has set to "tweaking" much of the training education, like emphasizing directives that MTIs and trainees to steer clear of any "unprofessional relationships." And in April, the Air Force shut down basic training at Lackland for a full day to survey trainees about sexual assault, asking if they or anyone they knew had ever been assaulted, harassed, or had a sexual relationship with a trainer. "We were surprisingly happy with the results. …. They were all in the negative," Kenny said, insisting the results show the Air Force has cracked down at Lackland since the scandal first erupted.

"Trainees are supposed to do whatever the instructor tells them to do as long as it's legal," she said. "Trainees are told repeatedly to that they're not to tolerate any illegal power, only legal orders."

How exactly recruits determine legal versus illegal orders is uncertain, especially in light of testimony taken last month in two Lackland cases, those of Staff Sgts. Kwinton Estacio and Craig LeBlanc, both accused of sexual misconduct with trainees.

Two women testified at evidentiary hearings against the men, recounting how they nervously met their trainers in a supply room when called upon late one night. LeBlanc, one testified, told her to come sit on his lap and asked her to taste a lollipop he was eating. Eventually, Estacio performed oral sex on one woman, LeBlanc had sex with the other.

Though neither said she was physically forced, both women testified they succumbed to the advances because they felt they had no other choice. For eight and a half weeks the trainers held sway over every other aspect of their lives and their futures in the military.

"What else was I supposed to do in that situation?" one testified.

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