Army panel expected to recommend tighter screening for drill sergeants Group seeks ways to prevent instances of sexual harassment


WASHINGTON -- A high-level Army panel created in the wake of the Aberdeen Proving Ground sex scandal is expected to recommend this month a more stringent selection process for drill sergeants, Pentagon officials say.

In making the recommendations, members of the panel hope to make it less likely that drill sergeants such as those prosecuted for sexual misconduct at Aberdeen and other training bases could rise to such positions.

Staff Sgt. Delmar G. Simpson, who was convicted of multiple rapes and sodomy at Aberdeen, was selected as a drill sergeant even though he had been removed as platoon sergeant at Fort Hood in Texas for granting favorable treatment to female soldiers. He had also been charged with fleeing the Texas Highway Patrol.

Under current regulations, drill sergeants must show leadership ability, undergo a cursory psychological review and have a record clear of any bad conduct for three years. But the Army violated its own rules with Simpson on that last point.

Members of the panel, in addition to calling for tighter screening of Army drill sergeants, will push for additional training and programs designed to integrate women more smoothly into the ranks.

The panel, which is charged with proposing solutions to the problem of sexual harassment, has yet to agree on specific recommendations. But some members have reportedly concluded that programs in the Navy and Air Force are more successful than the Army's at integrating women.

The panel, created in November by Army Secretary Togo D. West Jr., is chaired by Maj. Gen. Richard S. Siegfried, the former commander of the Army's largest training center, at Fort Jackson, S.C. It includes active-duty officers and enlisted personnel, Pentagon officials and several consultants, including Mady Wechsler Segal, a University of Maryland military sociologist. As they near completion of the report, members have been consulting with top Army officials.

One person familiar with their work said there have been some sharp differences of thinking between the male and female members. Some women are pushing to open up combat units to female soldiers as a way of facilitating integration, though there is doubt that this step would be approved. Women are now barred from infantry and armored units.

When the Army panel's report is released, it is expected to be accompanied by an Army inspector general's review of the command failures at Aberdeen and other training bases that contributed to the sex scandal.

One problem inherent in the Aberdeen scandal was that women were reluctant to report sexual misconduct. On at least one occasion, one was stymied when she did: A captain had sex with a woman who had approached him with a complaint that she had been raped by a sergeant.

Through its ground-combat role, the Army requires more brute physical force than the Navy or Air Force, said Linda Bird Franke, author of the forthcoming book "Ground Zero: The Gender Wars in the Military."

"So women stand out more in their gender differences," she noted. "I think the Army remains conflicted about women within their ranks."

A 1995 Pentagon survey of all female military personnel found that Army women had the least confidence in their commanders and senior leadership to stop sexual harassment.

"I think they've had trouble finding the appropriate way to integrate them," said Rep. Tillie Fowler, a Florida Republican who is visiting military training bases as a member of a House task force on sexual misconduct in the services. "The Army's got to find a way to do that."

Gen. William W. Hartzog, chief of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command, said he has already made some recommendations to top Army commanders about improvements in the way drill instructors are selected.

Hartzog said he thought the Army probably ought to look even further back in a soldier's past for any warning signs. "There are certain patterns of misconduct that the experts tell me need to be exposed -- interpersonal relationship problems, things that may portend a trend," he said.

In addition, the general said, more extensive psychological testing might be needed to determine the candidates best fit to be a drill sergeant, a figure with enormous authority and power over recruits.

In particular, he said, tests might be used to determine "if there is a personality or a propensity for that kind of service."

Pub Date: 6/04/97

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