An 18-year-old female Army recruit, a key accuser in the investigation of sexual misconduct by drill instructors at Aberdeen Proving Ground, has been granted a hardship discharge from the Army Ordnance Center and School, APG officials confirmed yesterday.
A request for the discharge by Pvt. Jessica Bleckley -- who said on a national news program in November that she had been pressured into having sex with two drill sergeants at the military base -- is being processed by the Army and should be completed Monday, said APG spokeswoman Rachel McDonald. But she added that the discharge has been approved and Bleckley is free to leave at any time.
Bleckley's departure from Army would be one more chapter in the unfolding drama at the Aberdeen training school, where more than 50 women say they have been victims of sexual misconduct during the past two years.
Army officials did not disclose the reason behind Bleckley's request yesterday. Such circumstances as an extreme illness in the family could warrant such a discharge, officials said.
"In most cases, it is granted in a situation in which the personal affairs of the soldier requires his or her personal attention and physical presence, making them unavailable for any further military duty," said Lt. Col. Gabriel Riesco, chief of staff for Gen. Robert D. Shadley, commander of the Ordnance Center and School.
McDonald said Bleckley's discharge would not affect the cases against her alleged attackers, Staff Sgt. Nathanael C. Beach, whose court-martial starts March 3; and Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, whose court-martial starts Feb. 17. They are two of four Aberdeen instructors facing courts-martial in the sex scandal.
The scandal broke in November when Simpson, Beach and Capt. Derrick Robertson were charged with a range of sexual misconduct, which triggered a larger probe into misconduct throughout the military.
A fourth instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Theron Brown, was charged last week with sodomy and adultery involving two female soldiers and a female civilian.
In November, Bleckley said on ABC's "20/20" that she had been forced into having sex with Simpson and Beach, who she says threatened to kill her if she told authorities. She also said 10 male noncommissioned officers made sexual advances toward her.
Beach, a Persian Gulf War veteran, has said he is innocent. His attorney, Capt. Vincent Avallone, was unaware of Bleckley's pending discharge last night but said, "If it were true, it could have an impact on Sergeant Beach's case in his benefit."
Pub Date: 1/26/97