Air force looking into alleged sexual assaults at Texas air base
WASHINGTON (AFP) Feb 18, 2004
US air force said Wednesday it has sent a team to a Texas air base to examine allegations of more than two dozen sexual assaults of students enrolled in base training schools.

The probe follows a report in the Denver Post last week that more than two dozen women at Sheppard Air Force Base have sought help at a Wichita Falls, Texas rape crisis center after assaults by fellow airmen. Five of the cases were reported to involve gang rapes.

The air force team, which arrived at the base Monday, was instructed to assess the climate at the base and the programs that were in place to prevent sexual assaults.

"The group is also charged with reviewing previously reported assaults to determine if proper actions were taken," the air force said.

NATO "top gun" pilots train at the base which also serves as a hub where thousands of airmen receive instruction in aeronautics, medical and other specialties.

General Don Cook, commander of the air force's air education and training command, vowed that "each proven case will be punished to the fullest extent."

He said he had ordered the team to be "uncompromising and aggressive in expediting their review."

The air force was buffeted last year by scandal at its Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado after allegations surfaced that dozens of female cadets had been sexually assaulted and that some were punished for other infractions after reporting the assaults.