I am an active duty Army soldier who serves honorably today. I served two deployments in Afghanistan and two more in Iraq. I have also been publicly smeared for reporting I was sexually assaulted by a general officer.
Gen. John Hyten, nominated to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (VCJCS), sexually assaulted me multiple times between January and December, 2017. During his confirmation hearing and in several articles, negative and false representations of my character and record have been raised. This is devastating to me, not only as a survivor of sexual assault, but also as an active duty soldier. I had a moral responsibility to come forward with the truth. I risked everything to ensure that Gen. Hyten cannot do this to anyone else as the VCJCS.
Until I was sexually assaulted by Gen. Hyten, he ranked me as the number one of 71 colonels who worked for him in the command. Only after I rejected his sexual advances did he begin efforts to discredit me and embrace the narrative that I was a “toxic leader.” Not only did Gen. Hyten know about my leadership style, he encouraged it. Two internal investigations implicated Gen. Hyten in participating in and promoting my leadership style — corroborated facts he continues to deny. In fact, as the timeline for every investigation conducted on this matter makes clear, he contacted Army senior leaders praising my leadership style well after he knew about it.
Prior to my going public both the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Air Force unequivocally stated that there was no evidence that I was lying, but Sen. Martha McSally (R-Arizona) and former Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson publicly painted me as a liar in General Hyten’s open confirmation hearing without any evidence and without ever speaking to me. I am not trying to get back at Gen. Hyten for anything, I am simply telling the truth. People who continue to defend and lobby for Gen. Hyten were not witnesses to the sexual assaults and no matter how many people like him it does not change the fact that he committed felony level sexual assault crimes.
Even more disturbing is the insinuation that I made these allegations up because I am mentally ill from combat zone injuries that resulted in a mild brain injury. To have that injury thrown in my face as the root of a "false" sexual assault allegation is absurd, demeaning, and an attack on survivors of sexual assault and those who have served our country.
I took responsibility for my actions and mistakes — Gen. Hyten has never taken responsibility for his. I am still serving in the Army because I did not violate any regulations and my record of service matters too. None of the senior leaders at U.S. Strategic Command accepted any responsibility for knowing, condoning, and promoting my leadership style despite the overwhelming evidence that they too were responsible.
The law enforcement investigation did not clear Gen. Hyten of misconduct. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is an evidence-gathering entity — they do not make determinations of innocence or guilt. Instead, a fellow Air Force four-star general simply decided not to hold him accountable despite evidence of misconduct.
Although the Air Force investigation was clearly focused on trying to discredit the victim, it actually contains solid evidence that Gen. Hyten is untruthful and that his judgment and leadership skills are questionable. The results show that he lied under oath and to investigators. During a wiretapped phone call, Gen. Hyten also conveyed chilling stalking behavior and made future threats, resulting in a Military Protective Order that prevented him from making contact with me. This is still in effect today. Gen. Hyten also took a polygraph test that he did not pass. When confronted by investigators about the private polygraph, Gen. Hyten refused to answer questions and stopped cooperating with the investigation. Conveniently all text and phone calls between us were also deleted because the phone was allegedly “wiped” during a phone upgrade. Members of his security detail also admitted they did not have active surveillance set up on the days the sexual assaults occurred and Gen. Hyten and his security detail admitted we were alone together in his room on multiple occasions.
If Gen. Hyten is promoted to vice chairman it sends a clear message that military sexual assault will go on unchecked and unaccountable. It tells every general officer who commits a crime that they are above the law, that victims’ voices will never be heard, and that justice or accountability will not be served. In fact, you may even end up getting promoted to a higher position. It tells sexual assault victims that no one will believe you if you speak up, even if there is evidence to support the truth.
Instead of compromising our values, let us solve the problem of sexual assault and senior leader misconduct now to ensure we maintain the most lethal and ready force. This is not a political issue — it is a human one that requires a commitment to operating on the legal, moral, and ethical high ground. Our military is an order-down culture and they must receive this order. Confirming Gen. Hyten for a promotion instead of subjecting him to disciplinary action for misconduct diminishes us all.
Col. Kathryn Spletstoser is an active duty Army officer
Editor’s notes: Hyten has vociferously denied the allegations against him. The full Senate is scheduled to vote on his nomination when it returns from recess in early September
This is a commentary and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond please contact letters@AirForceTimes.com.