Thursday, March 04, 2010

Report Says Sexual Assualt Increased While Gamble was Air Force Academy Commandant

[UPDATE July 12, 2011:  President Gamble was one of 21 people listed in an Inspector General report who "were not responsible for, and did not contribute to or abide, sexual assault problems at USAFA.  When informed of problems, they took appropriate action."  The full post is here.]

From a New York Times article on April 5, 1995:
The report said the percentage of female students indicating they had experienced at least 1 of 10 forms of sexual harassment on a recurring basis was 78 percent at the Air Force Academy, an increase from 59 percent of the female students who responded to the same survey in 1990-91. The questionnaires were sent to randomly selected students at each academy.

Why is this relevant?  Because last night, University of Alaska Presidential Candidate, Gen. Patrick Gamble, mentioned at the community reception in Juneau, that he had been the Commandant of the Air Force Academy.  Because of how quickly the finalists were announced and then arrived, I'd only glanced at his resume and hadn't caught that reference  [it's under Previous Assignments.]
Commandant of the US Air Force Academy. Directed all training, policy development, dormitory, food service, military classroom education and logistics support for 4000 students.  [Emphasis added]
But by this afternoon my brain had managed to link his comment and stories about sexual harassment at the military academies.  

So today I checked when Gen. Gamble was the Commandant at the Air Force Academy. His curriculum-vita doesn't mention dates, but Google led me to Wikipedia which does:
June 1993 - November 1994, commandant of cadets and commander, 34th Training Wing, U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado
So Gen. Gamble began as Commandant two years after the initial study and left five months before the GAO study cited by the New York Times. 

The article does say:
Service academy officials disputed these particular conclusions and pointed to two recent incidents. After a female freshman at the Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs told school officials that several young men had sexually assaulted her in February 1993, 12 other women came forward with other claims, ranging from date rape to groping. An instructor and cadet were court-martialed, three other male students resigned and three more were disciplined.
 So this would appear to have happened during Gamble's tenure.  This does indicate that not everything was ignored.  But there are twelve women cited (it doesn't say how many specific cases) and two people court martialed and three people disciplined.  Three others resigned, presumably with nothing on their records.  It does show that in some cases there was a response.

And the report says 78% of women experienced some form of sexual harassment and eight presumed harassers were impacted.  (According to Table II.1 of the GAO study they included 90 of the 517 women cadets in their sample.)

A year and a half in charge of the Air Force Academy is not a long time.  And there's clearly nothing here to suggest anything about sexual harassment on Gen. Gamble's part.  However, this issue does raise some questions about his management effectiveness.

Wednesday night, Gen. Gamble spoke of his outcomes based approach.  He said management was about people, about "giving them a clear expectations of what the outcome you want is, and not getting in the way of them getting there"

We know there was a 1991 report which reported significant levels of sexual harassment at the military academies.  So when he took command in April 1993, one would expect that he might have considered it important enough to give his management team "clear expectations of what the outcome [he] want[ed was]."

We don't know what happened.  There are various possibilities:

  1. It wasn't a priority item for him so he did not make lowering the incidence of sexual harassment one of his expectations for his Air Force Academy team.
  2. He did make it a priority, but was not effective in changing the outcomes
  3. He did make it a priority, but the impacts didn't show up until a later study. 
A September 2003 General Accounting Office (GAO) study - the next one listed in my search of the GAO site - did include this note that suggested that sexual harassment was still an issue nine years later:
Additionally, during the survey period, issues associated with alleged sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy became widely reported in the press, and several Air Force and Department of Defense (DOD) investigations commenced. Due to concerns about the overall lower Air Force Academy survey response rates, we extended the survey period by a week to March 7, 2003, at all academies.
Another case, which may or may not have surfaced while Gamble commanded the Air Force Academy, is discussed in a Dec. 14, 1996 Colorado Springs Gazette article [note I got the article through the UAA library and the link may require a password]:
A settlement was reached Friday in the case of a former Air Force Academy cadet who claims she was brutalized during survival training at the Air Force Academy more than three years ago.

Attorneys for both the Air Force and Elizabeth Saum agreed that they wouldn't comment on specifics of the agreement. The academy also declined to comment.

"We thought the settlement was just," said Doris Besikof, Saum's attorney, after a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Denver. "She (Saum) is pleased she has closure. That's what she desperately needed."

Saum's 1994 complaint has been among the most serious - and publicized - sexual harassment allegations at the academy. It was the subject of news reports and inspired a segment by ABC News' "20/20." Since then, the academy has significantly expanded its sexual harassment prevention efforts and toughened discipline for offenders.

In her lawsuit, Saum said she was targeted for sexual harassment from her first day at the military school in 1992. The alleged abuse culminated in 1993, Saum's sophomore year, during the vigorous and realistic Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape program, the suit said. A requirement for graduation, the 20-day course teaches cadets how to survive in the wild, avoid capture, endure physical or mental torture and escape captivity. The Air Force dropped several components of the course in 1995. .  .
The times in this case leave it open whether anything was actually reported while Gen. Gamble was Commandant.  Since he took over in June 1993, the incident may have occurred prior to his arrival.  The article says it was first reported in 1994.  General Gamble left in November 1994, so the odds are he was there when it was reported.

What's my point here?  The situation at the Air Force Academy during Gamble's reign raises questions about the effectiveness of General Gamble's leadership in an issue that is significant to a large percentage of UAA students and faculty.  Remember, he takes credit in his CV for directing 
 "all training, policy development, dormitory, food service, military classroom education and logistics support" 
at the Air Force Academy when 78% of the women cadets reported sexual harassment on a recurring basis.

It's possible that the search committee has carefully reviewed all this and determined that Gen. Gamble's role was exemplary.  And I would understand that they might not wish to draw attention to the issue if not asked.  So I'm asking.  But somehow I doubt this was ever discussed. 

What action did Gen. Gamble take on sexual harassment at the Academy?

The candidates' names have been public for four days, making it difficult  for anyone outside the committee to actually figure out there might be an issue here and to contact people who were at the Air Force Academy at the time to determine whether Gamble did make a vigorous effort to change the campus climate or not.

If he didn't, that raises questions about his values and priorities, given that studies had revealed an appalling rate of complaints among women cadets.  If he did give it a high priority, it raises questions about the effectiveness of the management style he shared with members of the Juneau community last night.

And even if I had put all this together before last night, simply asking about this at a community reception wouldn't have been enough.  Gen. Gamble is a skillful speaker and could convincingly dismiss this all.

It really does require some confirmation from other sources.  Like some of the female cadets at the Air Force Academy in 1993 and 1994. 

Here's the summary of the 1995 GAO Report based on studies during 1993-1994.


In an update of an earlier study that reported widespread sexual harassment of women at the nation's military academies, GAO found that a majority of female recruits in academic year 1993-94 continued to experience sexual harassment. The most common forms of harassment included demeaning remarks and visual displays, such as posters or graffiti. However, between 36 and 42 percent of the women at each academy reported unwelcome physical contact of a sexual nature, including fondling and kissing. Academy men perceived an improved atmosphere for reporting sexual harassment, with significant declines in the percentages seeing negative consequences for reporting sexual harassment. The responses of academy women, however, showed no such change in perceived consequences.
GAO found that: (1) more than 70 percent of academy women reported experiencing at least one form of sexual harassment on at least a monthly basis, while about 11 percent of men reported such exposure; (2) the proportion of women at the Naval and Air Force Academies who reported sexual harassment on a recurring basis significantly increased from the 1990-1991 academic year; (3) the most common forms of sexual harassment were verbal comments and visual displays; (4) although men perceived an improvement in the atmosphere and less negative consequences for reporting sexual harassment, women did not perceive an improvement; (5) between 36 and 42 percent of the women were subjected at least once during the year to physical behavior that interfered with their performance or created a hostile environment; and (6) 11 to 22 percent of the women reported sexual advances that were tied to some aspect of their academy careers. [Emphsis added.]


  1. In addition to the sexual harassment problems, the Air Force Academy also had problems with overly evangelical Christian faculty and chaplains. I find this just as troubling as the sexual harassment issue, especially since Jewish cadets were harassed.

    "Academy critic says she was fired
    By Patrick O'Driscoll, USA TODAY (5/12/05)

    COLORADO SPRINGS — An Air Force Academy chaplain who co-wrote a report last year that criticized "strident" evangelizing of cadets by Christian officers said Wednesday that she was fired by the academy's head chaplain."

    From the Colorado Springs Gazette, 3/6/05,


    February: Faculty survey reveals religious insensitivity among staff.

    March: Staff and cadet complaints arise over distribution of “The Passion of the Christ” posters.

    May: An atheist cadet files a complaint with the Air Force Inspector General, alleging an atmosphere “systematically biased against any cadet that does not overtly espouse Christianity.”

    August: A cadet survey shows more than half of cadets have heard religious slurs, comments and jokes, and 32 percent of non-Christian cadets say Christian cadets are given preferential treatment.

    November: The academy says it has received 55 complaints dating to 2000 about harassment or intolerant comments. One cadet was called a “Christ killer” by another cadet who was not punished.

    November: The academy orders a banner removed from the athletic department that said, “I am a Christian first and last . . . I am a member of Team Jesus Christ.” Officials counsel football coach Fisher DeBerry about it.


    Feb. 25: DeBerry says religion is what the academy is all about and that he will consider continuing his team prayers. Academy leaders meet with DeBerry again but decline to disclose specifics, saying only “they’ve had conversations.”

    March: Sensitivity training set to begin March 29. "

  2. Keep asking these questions of Gamble. As a former military enlisted woman, I can attest to the fact that sexual harassment is a fact of life for women in the military. The degree of harassment is directly related to the attitudes of those at the top. Unfortunately, too many commanding officers take the stance, as one did with me, that women who are harassed should feel blessed because "it means you aren't a dog."

  3. Pat Gamble was long gone from the AF academy by 2004 and 2005, how is that relevant ?

    Have you attempted to cross reference these stories by finding someone who was actually there at the time ?

    Once again you rely on one source of archived information, and that's it.

    It sure is easy to cast aspersions at the ADN, isn't it ?

    The climate which Mr. Gamble inherited at the Academy was in place long before he came on board, you can verify that by simply reading archived newspaper articles from the time.

    To imply that Mr. Gamble was solely responsible for creating and maintaining this environment is wreckless, you haven't offered nearly enough proof so far.

    I'm not suggesting that he was or wasn't responsible, you simply haven't proved it by quoting a single GAO report.

    You're calling a problem that was part of the culture of an institution that was much larger than Pat Gamble alone.

    You fail to grasp this.

    How do you know that Mr. Gamble didn't try to reform the institution ?

    What is your relevant experience that gives such an insight into how the AF Academy works ?

  4. In my opinion it is partly because people are getting opened. While centuries ago it was a huge shame to be harassed so you did everything to keep it in secret while now you have an authority which you can turn to.

  5. It is time for us to join forces in the way we did when the half-governor tried to get her buddy Wayne Anthony Ross in as Attorney General? This guy is bad news ... is there time to do anything?

  6. For those of us who wish to voice our approval or disapproval of any particular candidate for the UA presidency, there is a form on line. It's call the Presidential Search Feedback Form. You can find it at Once at this site, look on the left under Presidential Search and then on the next page, it's the next heading under Candidates. Once completed, the form can be mailed, faxed, or scanned. The next meeting (and possible date of the big decision) is MARCH 15th. I encourage those who feel strongly about this (or any other candidate) to complete the form and get it to the Board of Regents. Thank you.

  7. Harpboy, I originally mentioned the religious favoritism allegations, but left them out because they happened well after Gamble left and there's no indication they were an issue earlier.

    Anon1 (2:07am)- I'm hoping more women military will speak up, especially those who were at the Academy in 1993 and 1994 who can give us a sense of how Gamble handled this. Thanks.

    Anon2 (6:28am) Thanks for commenting. It helps both of us clarify what we understand.

    I'm not sure how much of your comment is aimed at Harpboy and how much at me. If you're asking me those questions, I have to ask if you actually read the post.
    1. The post cites three GAO reports, not just one.

    2. I'm one person blogging on my own without pay. The university only released the names Sunday. Not much time to do further research and their decision is due in ten days. I've raised this issue, carefully saying that it needs more study, in hopes that others will start working too. You too, Anon2, are free to contact people who were at the Academy then and prove me wrong.

    3. The ADN was never mentioned in the post, how have I cast aspersions against the ADN?

    4. There is nothing in the post that says Gamble is personally responsible. I cite a study that shows the problem existed before he arrived. How is that "imply[ing] that Mr. Gamble was solely responsible"? Please go back and reread the post!

    My whole point was related to the effectiveness of his management style which he explained here in Juneau. He said he sets outcome expectations and let's the management team handle them. Did he set expectations that would lead to lowering the level of sexual harassment? If he did, it didn't work. If he didn't, why not? It's possible that changing an organization like the Air Force Academy on an issue like this would take concentrated effort over a long period of time. But then he needs to temper how he talks about what his management style can do. As Anon1 said, how the top leadership deals with this is critical and he tells us in his CV that he was in charge of all the key elements.

    Ropi, Definitely more people report sexual harassment because societies are more open about sex, because we no longer believe it is acceptable, and authorities are supposed to respond in a supportive way. Where it is known that the do, I'm sure reporting levels go up.

    Barbara, I do think everyone needs to take a much closer look at the candidates and their actual records of achievement. If people contact the board of regents with their concerns, it is possible they will do more checking. And raising issues means everyone will be more aware and careful no matter who is selected in order to demonstratre our concerns are misplaced. And I hope they are right.

  8. As the parent of a female cadet from the class of 2002 who played a pivotal role in exposing the latest sexual harassment scandal at the Air Force Academy, I can assure you that your questioning of the role Mr. Gamble played in 1993 is not only prudent but quite relative. Being an inside participant, it was soon learned that the brass was well aware of what was going on back in 1993 and not a single one was willing or capable of living up to the mottos they so proudly espouse. They (including Mr. Gamble) demonstrated neither integrity nor honorable character and instead chose to keep their dirty secrets within their cloistered halls instead of addressing what was going on. It was easier to blame the women and say 'boys will be boys' than to address the very real problems. Frankly there are no former leaders of the Air Force Academy (or the Air Force for that matter) that I would support for president of any academic institution. They have shown their true colors of being unable to do the right thing even when it involves criminal activity and maybe more importantly, even when a light was shone on it, they simply circled their wagons and denied everything. Yes, Mr. Gamble was not solely responsible and yes, he inherited the problem, but you can be assured he knew about it and he went along with the party line of denial, blame, and obfuscation. I certainly witnessed first hand the mockery the top brass made of the 2002-03 scandal and soon learned this mockery went back a long way. You do have to ask if that's the kind of leader you want.

  9. Anon 10:06, Thank you for your contribution. If you know or can contact people who can give first hand reports of Gen. Gamble's handling of this issue at the Air Force Academy, please advise them to contact members of the University of Alaska Board of Regents. They are scheduled to make their decision by March 15, 2010.

    If they are willing to publicly address the issues, they can contact me as well. My email link is just above the blog archive in the right hand column.

    People who believe Gen. Gamble handled the situation well and can give first hand reports of that are also encouraged to contact the Board of Regents.

    I'm not out to derail his selection, but I do want the regents to make sure that his behavior was unassailable at the time before they select him.


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