Between January 2019 and January 2021, the Army charged 18 soldiers under a new law designed to protect trainees, cadets and applicants from sexual abuse, according to data the Army provided to Military Times.
Article 93a of the Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes prohibited sexual relationships between recruiters or training instructors (such as drill sergeants) and “specially protected junior member[s] of the armed forces” such as applicants, delayed entry program members, or servicemembers still undergoing initial training.
The Article 93a data, first obtained by Military Times, offers an unprecedented snapshot of the prevalence of sexual misconduct involving trainees, cadets, recruits and their instructors. An Army spokesperson explained that the service had no good way of tracking such misconduct — when it rises to the level of criminal charges — before 2019.
“Sexual misconduct by Soldiers in a special position of trust (training, drill sergeants, recruiters) before Jan. 1, 2019, was most often charged as a violation of Service or local regulations under Article 92, UCMJ or as maltreatment under Article 93,” said Matthew Leonard, an Army spokesperson. “We are not able to distinguish between these violations of Article 92 and 93 [before 2019] with others.”
In addition to making such misconduct easier to track, the law has added teeth to longstanding policies prohibiting sexual contact between vulnerable early career troops and their instructors or recruiters — regardless of whether the protected junior service member has consented. A defense official told Task & Purpose last week that the Army views trainees as “incapable of consent” to their instructors due to an imbalance of power. The Defense Department requires recruiters to avoid “personal, intimate or sexual relationship[s] with a recruit or trainee,” to include even “dating, handholding … [and] social networking.”
Of the eighteen charges, only seven of the accused soldiers have actually been convicted of the new UCMJ provision. Five cases were still pending as of January.
According to Army data, as of January 2021, four Fort Sill soldiers had been charged under Article 93a, but none had been convicted. One accused soldier pled guilty to a lesser charge under Article 92 (disobeying a direct order) for violating regulations with the same trainee, said Leonard, the Army spokesperson. Three cases there were pending as of January.
A person familiar with the investigation told Army Times that more than 20 individuals are under investigation.
It is not yet clear whether the Army will level Article 93a charges against any of the Fort Sill training instructors suspended last week for allegedly assaulting one or more trainees. “More than one” training cadre member is under investigation, according to Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Kamper, the installation’s senior commander. “The allegation did originate [in the] training environment here at Fort Sill,” he said in a media roundtable Thursday.
Two Army recruiters charged under Article 93a since January 2019 received other-than-honorable discharges in lieu of legal proceedings. One instructor at Fort Jackson also received a similar discharge.
Fort Jackson has also seen one instructor convicted in an Article 93a case, but another was acquitted of the charge and instead convicted under Article 92 for violating DoD and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command regulations with the same trainee, according to Leonard.
At Fort Lee, four instructors have been convicted under Article 93a. Another instructor there had the charge dismissed in a plea agreement that “allowed a [guilty] plea for an offense involving the same trainee under Article 92, in exchange for the Article 93a charge being dismissed,” said Leonard in an email to Military Times.
Two West Point instructors have been convicted of violating Article 93a since 2019.
One instructor assigned to the Center for Initial Military Training at Fort Eustis had an Article 93a charge pending as of January.
|Command||Charged with violating Art. 93a||Convicted of violating Art. 93a||Convicted (lesser offense)||Discharge before court-martial||Pending as of Jan. 2021|
|U.S. Army Recruiting Command||2||0||0||2||0|
|U.S. Military Academy (West Point)||2||2||n/a||0||0|
|Fires Center of Excellence (Fort Sill)||4||0||1||0||3|
|Army Training Center (Fort Jackson)||4||1||1||1||1|
|Combined Arms Support Command (Fort Lee)||5||4||1||0||0|
|Center for Initial Military Training (Fort Eustis)||1||0||0||0||1|
Military Times staff reporter Kyle Rempfer contributed reporting to this story.