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February 23, 2014

VETERANS’ CORNER: Military branches addressing misconduct, ethics and training

By JIM VINES

The number of U.S. soldiers forced out of the Army because of crimes or misconduct has soared in the past several years as the military emerges from a decade of war that put a greater focus on battle competence than on character.

Recent data acquired by the Associated Press shows that a number of officers who left the Army due to sexual misconduct more than tripled in the past three years. The number of military personnel forced out for drugs, alcohol, sexual assault and other misconduct shot up from about 5,600 in 2007 to more than 11,000 last year. The data reveals stark differences between the military services and underscores the strains that long, repeated deployments have had on military enlisted men and its leaders. It also reflects the rapid growth in the middle part of the decade and the decisions to relax standards in order to bring in and retain soldiers – to fill the ranks – as the Pentagon added troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Over the past year, a series of high-profile scandals, from sexual assaults and unauthorized spending to gambling and drinking, has dogged the Army’s military leadership. More recently, cheating allegations against Air Force officers, a massive bribery case against Navy officers and Marines’ misconduct with enemy corpses has many questioning leadership training. When the country needs a lot of troops, more individuals with behavioral problems are allowed to enter and stay. All this is leading to broad ethics reviews and new personnel policies.

The Navy has become known as the most transparent service, quicker to publicly fire commanders for misconduct or poor leadership. The Air Force, smaller than the Navy and Army, reported fewer cases of officers and enlisted service members leaving for misconduct. The Marine Corps, the military’s smallest service, has seen its numbers of officers and enlisted men court-martialed slowly declining.

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