USAFA Cadet – Will She Be Safe?

By Major Van Harl USAF Ret

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. – A basic cadet concentrates on keeping her balance while a fellow cadet waits his turn to tackle the balance beam. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charley Starr)
AmmoLand Gun News
AmmoLand Gun News

Wisconsin –-(  I have written a number of columns over the years about women in the military.

I wrote one about my daughter possibly attending the US Air Force Academy (USAFA). A North Carolina mother, with a sixteen year old daughter, found the article and contacted me about her girl child attending the USAFA. The daughter is home schooled, and has been a Cadet in the Air Force’s Civil Air Patrol program for a number of years. The mother had questions about her daughter’s potential career in an organization where only 15% of its members are female.

I am sure in the back of her mind she has reservations about her daughter being wounded or killed while deployed with the Air Force, but what she was really concern with was sexual assault.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is not doing well in the press right now when it comes to the physical and sexual safety of its members, both male and female.

The first question I have is, are there more sexual assaults occurring in the military than in the civilian world? So far no one I have contacted can give me a definite answer. What I was told is perhaps the ability for reporting sexual assault in the military is more enhanced and encouraged. When a person is assaulted in the big civilian world the victim may never see the attacker again, but on the confines of a military installation Airman Sally has a greater probability of coming in contact with Airman Billy her attacker, so she reports it.

The number one thing you always have to remember is, men are sexual predators and with military women being a 15% gender minority they are always going to be viewed as the next victim by certain members of the armed forces. If you look at raw numbers more men are victims of sexual assault in the military than women. Just as there are more single parent dads in the military than single parent moms.

However when you get the phone call that your 18 year old daughter you entrusted to the Air Force Academy, has been raped by four drunk fellow male Cadets you don’t really care about statistics.

Women are in the military to stay. The 15% female population in the DoD will only go up in the future and this will mean more targets of opportunity for assaults.

I will tell you I have never been a big fan of the military justice system. Everything is driven by success numbers in the military, to include how many cases a military lawyer (JAG) wins in a military courtroom. The military prosecutor may have a weak case, perhaps because the victim might not do well on the witness stand. JAG officers hate to lose “their” case. Emphasis being “their” case not the justice the victim needs. Personal safety has to be the driving motivator here. If the female military member cannot (and will never be) guaranteed her safety by the DoD from members of the DoD she has to take charge of her own safety.

First suggestion is follow rule #9 from Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs of the NCIC TV show, “Always carry a knife.” I gave a double bladed knife to one of the female USAFA cadets we sponsored when the Colonel was stationed in Colorado Springs. Evil hates organization. You need to pre-organize your response to an assailant and be ruthless.

The number two and probably even more important suggestion is never consume intoxicants with your fellow male military members when you are the only female in the crowd. There is a current case at the US Naval Academy were a female midshipman was allegedly raped by fellow male midshipmen. They allege it was consensual but she really does not remember, because she in her own words was drinking very heavily. Why is it ever a good idea for a single female airmen to be in an off base motel room drinking with a room full of male airmen? It is hard to invoke rule #9 if you are drunk. Those nice clean cut professional male military members you as a female member see every day at work do not have your best interest at heart when they are drinking and running in a pack.

Yes, mother in North Carolina your daughter should go to the Air Force Academy but she needs to be ready to proactively protect herself because at this time the DoD cannot do it for her. Do not expect that to change anytime soon, but she is still safer in the military than in the civilian world. It just hurts more when your own kind (fellow Airmen and Soldiers) are the predators.

Major Van Harl USAF Ret
[email protected]

About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret., a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army Infantry School.  A retired Colorado Ranger and currently is an Auxiliary Police Officer with the Cudahy PD in Milwaukee County, WI.  His efforts now are directed at church campus safely and security training.  He believes “evil hates organization.”  [email protected]

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8 years ago

I thought it was a very bad idea 40 yrs. ago, when I was leaving the military and still think it today. Women and men do not belong together on duty, in the military, period. It is too easy for a guy to cop a feel just about anywhere and no one is going to see him. This will just escalate and finally turn into rape. The women are too easy as targets. They are smaller and weaker. They can scream, ” I am woman, watch me roar…” all they want, it does not change the facts. If the guy… Read more »