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Star soldier warning women away from Army duty

army February 6, 1997
Web posted at: 8:45 p.m. EST

From Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

THE PENTAGON (CNN) -- With the Army reeling from revelations that drill sergeants may have raped female privates, new allegations against the Army's top noncommissioned officer have shaken the service to its core.

The woman making that claim suggests that women shy away from military service, at least until the Army fixes itself.

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  • Interview with Jessica Bleckley (4 min./864K)
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  • Retired Sgt. Major Brenda Hoster, who accused Sgt. Major Gene McKinney of harassment, was a star soldier herself.

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    She claims of being confronted by McKinney in a Hawaiian hotel room. "He said, 'you know I could take you right here, right now,' and I said 'yeah, you could because you're bigger than I am, but you had better kill me if you do that, because I'll tell if I live.'"

    She didn't tell. But when she heard that McKinney -- the highest ranking noncommissioned officer in the Army -- was appointed to a special task force that was supposed to investigate sexual harassment, she wrote him an angry letter.

    "Please do the Army...and yourself a favor -- remove yourself from the panel and select someone who will do the Army and all its soldiers some good," wrote Hoster.

    "He never responded to my letter," she said.

    mckinney

    Hoster also faults a senior army officer, Col. Bob Gaylord, who she says listened sympathetically and then did nothing to help. (18 sec. /256K AIFF or WAV sound)icon

    Hoster's case illustrates that, despite the Army's insistence that it has zero tolerance toward sexual harassment, it may not be addressing the problem adequately.

    Her complaint suggests Army commanders either don't know how to handle sexual harassment -- or are more concerned about the Army's image than punishing wrongdoers.

    That's certainly the opinion of Jessica Bleckley, a young private whose accusations sparked the investigation of rapes at Aberdeen.

    "All they say is 'well it's going on, but don't do it again,' and that's it. And that's supposed to stop it," Bleckley said.

    The Pentagon now says the Army may be forced to rethink its policy of training men and women together, but insists women remain a key part of the military.

    "They are doing outstanding work, and we frankly need them and want them. So I'm not going to see any roll back here," said Defense Secretary William Cohen.

    But Hoster isn't buying that assurance. Her advice? If you are a young woman, stay away from the Army. "I know the recruiters are going to hate me for this, but I would tell the parents. Not now. Not right now. Make the Army fix it first, and then maybe later."

     
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