Top Guns

The Air Force Academy is changing its leadership -- but can it transform its culture?

But with Roche and Jumper's changes, that philosophy is changing, too. An officer will now be on duty in the dorms at all times, "responsible for good order and discipline, and will manage a roving patrol in effect at night and on weekends," reads a memo detailing the new rules. "Fourth class cadets will not be assigned such duty."

However, according to a source inside the academy, that reform began a few weeks before it was formally announced, and some officers resent having to "babysit" cadets. But others feel it's necessary. "From 10 p.m. to 7:30 a.m., they roam the hallways and make sure doors to the common areas are locked and that no one is in the bathrooms," the academy insider says. "I think the active-duty presence will stop the sneaking around that goes on."

For the most part, the new patrols seem to have curbed fraternization, although the source says a female cadet was recently caught sneaking into a male cadet's room after hours; both were disciplined. Other changes that will take effect in the coming weeks include clustering female cadets around the women's bathrooms, keeping dorm rooms open when non-roommates are present, and holding cadet commanders accountable for the actions of their subordinates. One of the other big changes will be granting full amnesty to victims who are violating academy rules at the time of an assault. Many victims, such as Parks, say that after reporting an assault, they were punished for things such as drinking, sexual activity in the dorm and fraternization.

Despite sweeping changes at the Air Force Academy, 
Jean Murrell still worries for cadets' safety.
Jonathan Castner
Despite sweeping changes at the Air Force Academy, Jean Murrell still worries for cadets' safety.

The cadet wing isn't the only place where changes will be seen. In the next couple of months, the entire upper leadership will be replaced. Academy superintendent Lieutenant General John Dallager will retire, as planned, in June. And although Roche maintains that no one individual is to blame for the decade-old rape problem, he is reassigning Brigadier General Taco Gilbert, the commandant of cadets who's come under fire for his handling of several rape cases, as well as his comments in Westword about cadet Lisa Ballas ("Taco's New Tone," February 27, 2003). Senator Wayne Allard -- whose office has become a de facto clearinghouse for sexual-assault reports -- publicly expressed his concern over Gilbert's statements, which seemed to fault Ballas for being raped at an off-base party and called for Gilbert's ouster. The general will soon assume a new post at the Pentagon.

The clean sweep also includes Colonel Robert Eskridge, the vice commandant of cadets, and Colonel Laurie Slavec, the training group commander. During a Pentagon press conference last week that Westword joined by telephone, Jumper called Dallager's replacement, Major General John Rosa, the deputy director of current operations on the joint staff, "a man of character." And Jumper said Gilbert's successor, Brigadier General Johnny Weida, a widely respected fighter pilot, will be "a model of leadership." Colonel Debra Gray, currently with the joint staff, will replace Eskridge, and Colonel Clada Monteith, deputy director for security forces in Europe, will take over for Slavec.

Still, some people don't think the changes go far enough. Victims wonder what, if anything, will happen to their attackers. And during congressional hearings that began last week, senators said the Air Force is incapable of handling the investigation and called for an outside, independent probe.

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