Paula Coughlin-Puopolo, a former Navy helicopter pilot who was sexually assaulted during the infamous Tailhook convention at a Las Vegas hotel in 1991, has summoned Congress to hold a hearing on the sex scandal now rocking basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
A petition authored by Coughlin-Puopolo and posted on the Protect Our Defenders website got more than 1,000 signatures in the first two hours, said Brian Purchia, a spokesman for the organization. It can be read here: http://action.protectourdefenders.com/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8040
“Please join me and other survivors now: Tell Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Buck McKeon to Protect Our Defenders, and hold a congressional hearing about Lackland immediately,” Coughlin-Puopolo wrote.
Coughlin-Puopolo suffered retaliation after blowing the whistle on the sexual assaults of dozens of service women at Tailhook.
The Air Force is investigating a dozen basic training instructors for alleged sexual misconduct against at least 31 trainees in a widening scandal that first came to light one year ago after a recruit reported that a fellow trainee had been assaulted. Since then, six MTIs have been charged, including a technical sergeant and master sergeant, and a lieutenant colonel was removed from his position as commander of a training wing.
One MTI, Staff Sgt. Peter Vega-Maldonado, pleaded guilty to having an inappropriate relationship with one trainee before later admitting to having relationships with nine other recruits. He cannot be charged in those cases unless new evidence is discovered because he was granted immunity in exchange for cooperating with investigators in two other cases.
Staff Sgt. Luis Walker’s court-martial is set to begin Monday on charges he raped, sexually assaulted or had inappropriate contact with 10 female trainees.