SAN ANTONIO – The Air Force chose a woman Saturday to lead its basic training unit at a Texas base where dozens of female recruits have alleged they were sexually assaulted or harassed by male instructors within the past year.
Col. Deborah Liddick is taking command of the 737th Training Group, bringing a distinctly new face of authority to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Six male instructors have been charged with crimes ranging from rape to adultery, and there are others still under investigation.
The Air Force announced Liddick's appointment in a statement that didn't mention the sex scandal or highlight choosing a woman to lead a unit where the number of women identified by military investigators as potential victims is approaching 40.
About one in five recruits at Lackland are women, while most instructors are men.
"I look forward to and have the utmost confidence in having Col. Liddick take the reins of basic military training," Col. Mark Camerer, commander of the 37th Training Wing at Lackland, said in the statement.
Lackland is where every new American airman reports for basic training, graduating about 35,000 each year.
Liddick is already stationed in San Antonio, where she serves as chief of the maintenance division at the former Randolph Air Force Base. She is scheduled to take command Friday.
She takes over for Col. Glenn Palmer, who was ousted last month as attention to the scandal intensified. Another commander at Lackland was also relieved over the summer for what military prosecutors described as a lack of confidence.
The most serious allegations at Lackland involved an instructor sentenced to 20 years in prison in July after being convicted of raping one female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.
Earlier this week, another instructor was sentenced to a year in prison and received a dishonorable discharge after pleading guilty to having sex with a trainee.
Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group that has pressed Congress to hold hearing on the Lackland scandal, continued calling for legislative changes to military policies with news of Liddick's appointment.
"Hopefully, Col. Deborah Liddick will do a great job," said Nancy Parrish, the group's president. She added that what's occurring at Lackland is part of "a much broader problem endemic throughout all the services."
U.S. Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, visited Lackland last week and said he believed the Air Force was being diligent in its investigation. In August, the White House pick for Air Force chief of staff was held up while Congress pressed the service for answers about the scandal.