WASHINGTON — Hoping to fight sexual assault in its own ranks, the Air Force said Friday a sweep of air base offices worldwide found thousands of suspect materials ranging from pornographic films to a beer bong.
It's not clear what the inspection, and the odd assortment of items it turned up, tells Air Force leaders about the link between the workplace environment and the growing problem of sexual violence. But it was meant to impress on Air Force commanders that they need to attack the underlying problem of unprofessionalism.
"We have a significant number of airmen who feel they have to `go along to get along' by ignoring inappropriate images, workplace comments or other material that makes them uncomfortable. That's simply not the Air Force we want to be," the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, said in a statement. He ordered the inspections in late November.
The Air Force fell into the public spotlight on this issue partly because of revelations of sexual abuse of female recruits. An investigation last year found that 23 instructors allegedly engaged in inappropriate or coercive sexual relationships with 48 recruits at Air Education and Training Command at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio.
Gen. Larry O. Spencer, the Air Force vice chief of staff, said Friday the inspections of offices and other work spaces at about 100 facilities in December found more than 32,000 items judged to be pornographic, unprofessional or offensive.
"This was not a witch hunt," Spencer said in a telephone interview. It was designed to reinforce the idea that every member of the Air Force should be treated with respect and that sexist attitudes must change, he said.
The Air Force said the no-notice or short-notice inspections found 631 items judged to be pornographic, including magazines, calendars, photos and videos.
They also turned up 3,987 items deemed unprofessional. Examples: a pubic hair in an office logbook, a beer bong and World War II-era airplane nose art depicting a fully clothed but "promiscuous" woman, according to an Air Force document listing all the items.
Among 27,598 items categorized by commanders as "offensive": a postcard depicting women in bikinis, lewd cartoons, a copy of the Air Times newspaper's "Hot Shots 2013" calendar with women in "provocative" poses, a picture of professional football player Tom Brady shirtless, a Confederate flag and a poster of Osama bin Laden.
Asked what this tells him about a relationship between problematic workplace items and the effort to combat sexual abuse, Spencer said it's a mixed picture and that the goal is to ensure professionalism in the workplace.
"Most of the items that were found some might find offensive (but) weren't in the category of vulgarity or pornography, although there was some of that out there and those were taken care of," he said, adding that he's not sure there is a clear link between offensive materials in the workplace and the problem of sexual assault.
"Whether offensive material is directly connected to someone creating a sexual assault or being involved in sexual assault, I can't draw that line directly," Spencer said. "But I think it all starts with the culture that we want to have out there, and that is a professional environment and that everybody is treated with respect."
Robert Burns can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/robertburnsAP
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Havrilla crouches in the remnants of a "demolition shot" she and her team did of a "bunch of captured enemy munitions" outside of Forward Operating Base Gardez, in Afghanistan. "It's a very male dominated, hypermasculine environment, so you've got to be the tomboy, kind of, 'let's play cowboys and indians. And soldiers,'" she says. But to some, this also meant persistent sexual harassment and even assault.
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Tia Christopher and her friend Aston Tedford at a women veterans retreat in Arizona several years ago. Christopher now works as an advocate for veterans, in particular victims of MSA, and has written guidance on the subject.
Tia Christopher in a favorite photo.
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Tia Christopher sent this photo of her recently completed tattoo Friday, Sept. 28. Written in Arabic, she says "her motto" -- which covers scars from her assault -- more literally translates: "Despite the flames that devoured my flesh, I am still beautiful."
Claire Russo in a childhood photo.
Claire & Coconut
Claire Russo pictured at 10 years old, in 1989 with "Coconut." Russo grew up near Washington, D.C., and worked on the Hill. "I was sort of -- well no, a really privileged middle-class kid," she says. "I was just fascinated with the debate, and the decisions the government was making … And I remember a very strong desire to serve."
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Claire Russo (right) with her roommate at The Basic School in Quantico, Va., after finishing a field exercise. Russo says that one of the 30 females in the class of 180 was raped in the barracks while she was at The Basic School.
Claire Russo in a courtyard in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006, when she served as the targeting officer for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. She deployed two weeks after testifying at the discharge hearing of the serviceman who raped her, Douglas Alan Dowson -- he was already in prison.
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Deputy District Attorney Gretchen Means, Claire Russo and District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, after Russo received the "Citizens of Courage" award from the San Diego District Attorney's office at Camp Pendleton in 2006.
Down The Aisle
Claire Russo at her wedding to Josh Russo. Lt. Josh Russo was stationed at Camp Pendleton, some 40 miles north, at the time of Russo's assault in 2004. He remains in the military.
Claire And Josh Russo
Claire and Josh Russo on their wedding day, with friends from the Marines.
Russo And Her Motorcycle
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Claire Russo in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border, on a mission with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Army Paratroopers. "I spoke with the district governor that day about how we could help to get a woman working for the Ministry of Womens Affairs working in his district," Russo writes.
Claire, Josh And Genevieve Russo In Paris
Claire Russo and her husband, Josh Russo, and their baby Genevieve, here four weeks old, in Paris. Josh serves in the U.S. Army.
"My 4 week old daughter Genevieve and I in front of a painting of Saint Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, who saved the city from the Huns," Russo writes.
Marti Ribeiro In Front Of Village
Marti Ribeiro served with the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines over eight years as a combat correspondent.
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'Afghan Girls On Rooftop'
A photograph of Afghan girls, taken by Marti Ribeiro during her deployment.
Ribeiro In 2006
Marti Ribeiro and an Afghan boy in 2006.
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Marti Ribeiro titles this photo -- taken in Afghanistan in 2006 -- as "soaked to the bone and miserable."
Marti Ribeiro And Her Daughter Bela
Marti Ribeiro and her daughter, Bela, in San Antonio, Texas.