Sexual Assault at Keesler Air Force Base

Jennifer, United States Air Force

Technical School Instructor Sexually Assaults New Recruit I joined the Air National Guard in 1996 at the age of 24. At the onset of my career, I was raped by my recruiter at his house. I was invited to a “new recruit” party, drugged, and raped. I never told anyone because I was too ashamed. I had PTSD before I even left for basic training.

After completing basic training, I was sent to Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi for technical school training. I had orders to attend six months of Satellite and Wideband Communications training. I quickly realized that the military culture was one of zero tolerance for reporting sexual harassment, assault, or rape. I witnessed two women speak out and get completely railroaded for reporting, one was kicked out. They were Active Duty.

I was two weeks away from graduation when I got sexually assaulted by my technical school instructor. He taught the basic operation of the satellite communications van. The mobile communications van is a box with racks of equipment in it. You could stand up in the equipment but it was a small enclosed space with a door that locked. For the final exam in this block, we all had to enter the mobile satellite communications van and configure it for a preventative maintenance inspection. When it was my turn, we entered the van like everyone else and the instructor shut the door. I began configuring the van for the maintenance inspection. I was confident that I could successfully complete the task. My back was to the instructor while I worked on the task.

After a few minutes, the technical school instructor came from behind me and pinned me to the racks of equipment while rubbing his genitals on me. And then he whispered in my ear, “Let me help you, let me help you.” I freaked out and fight or flight kicked in. I told him not to touch me and that I didn’t need his help. It was an intense moment so my adrenaline and my anxiety levels were through the roof. I had a hard time thinking straight after this happened. I hadn’t completed the task yet so I still had to finish it and wait for positive results, with shaking hands. That time with him felt like it lasted an eternity. I couldn’t wait for him to formally excuse me after passing the exam. Unfortunately, it did not end there.

At the end of the duty day, he asked me to stay behind so he could inform me that he was failing me for attitude even though I passed the final exam. I immediately began to cry and ask him why he was doing all this to me. I begged him to reconsider. He told me that he would reconsider only if I showed up the next day an hour or so before everyone else. I left the hangar in a state of panic. I wasn’t sure how to get out of the mess that this man created. I did not want to turn this guy in and get stuck dealing with an investigation when I only had two weeks left at Keesler AFB. I was so close and I was going to graduate and go home. I loved my job and I loved being in the military.

The next day, instead of going to class at all, I went to the Air National Guard liaison’s office. I had already been in contact with them regarding some shady medical practices at the hospital so they knew that I was already frustrated with the system, homesick, and depressed. I told them that the instructor wanted to fail me for attitude. I told them that I thought he just misinterpreted my sadness and depression. They agreed to give him a call and explain what we had been dealing with regarding the medical care. They called him and apparently he acquiesced because I was told to report to my next class with a brand new instructor. I dodged a bullet. I prevented my own rape.

I went to my next class with the rest of my classmates and never saw him again. In 2001, I was sent back to Keesler AFB for more advanced training. Shortly after training began, a couple classmates and I went to the NCO club. I felt safe there so I had a couple shots. As soon as he walked through the door I recognized him immediately. It was the technical school instructor that had sexually assaulted me in tech school in 1997. I immediately went into a blinded fury, stood up, took his picture, and then went to confront him. I started by telling him that it was time for some closure. I don’t remember what else I said but I was going off about what he had done to me in tech school.

The bartender called Security Forces and I was hauled out of there. I was informed that he was going to press charges against me for “disrespect to a NCO”. I told them to tell him that if he pressed charges against me that I was going to press charges against him for sexual harassment. Security Forces relayed the information to him and then came back to tell me that he dropped the charges. They told me to go home and cool off. They also told me that I was allowed back at the club just not that night. And that the technical school instructor just happened to be on leave from his permanent duty station in England. He was just visiting Keesler.

My class leader told me that I should cover myself and report the incident to the First Sargeant of the Communications training flight at Keesler. I put it in writing and met with him briefly. I never heard another word about it afterwards but I was fearful that the incident would get back to my new Commander. I was afraid of how it might affect his perception of me. This was the second of four sexual offenders I came in direct contact with while serving my country.

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