August 13, 2012 (TSR) – The U.S. Air Force removed a top training commander at a Texas base Friday amid a widening sex scandal involving basic training instructors.
Col. Glenn Palmer, point man in the Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland’s efforts to identify and remove instructors who may have been involved in sexual relationships with recruits, has been relieved of the command of the 737th training group, which trains more than 35,000 airmen a year at Lackland, according to reports posted on the website of local daily The Houston Chronicle.
Palmer was removed by commander of the 37th training wing at Lackland, Col. Eric Axelbank, who reportedly lost confidence in Palmer, the reports said.
“The decision to remove Col. Palmer is a part of Col. Axelbank’s deliberate effort to fit the right leadership with the 737th Training Group in order to move forward in light of the continuing investigation,” wing spokeswoman Colleen McGee was quoted as saying.
Palmer did not create the environment that resulted in the misconduct, but Axelbank wanted a different leader to implement changes that would be needed in basic military training, she said.
Axelbank has been the wing’s commander for just over a year and will leave for a Pentagon job in September.
The scandal has grown since 2009 to involve 15 training instructors, with 38 trainees identified as victims of the scandal.
Six of the 12 instructors under investigation face charges ranging from rape to adultery. Officials say nine of those instructors were in the same squadron, according to news report.
The U.S. Air Force launched an investigation into instructor misconduct after former instructor Luis A. Walker was accused 13 months ago of having illicit sexual contact with 10 female recruits. On July 21, Walker was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his role in the scandal.
Tech Sgt. Christopher Smith was charged with making sexual advances toward a trainee, seeking to develop an intimate relationship with her and wrongfully having a social relationship with another trainee. Smith is among 15 instructors investigated in a widening sex scandal that rocked Lackland Air Force base, one of the America’s busiest military training centers.
Another trainer, Vega-Maldonado, who admitted in June to having sex with a female trainee, was given 90 days of confinement as part of a plea deal.