Tailhook whistle-blower calls for Lackland sex scandal hearing


Tailhook whistle-blower Paula Coughlin-Puopolo has authored a petition urging Congress to hold a hearing on the sex scandal at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

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.


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  1. Resurrecting ‘Tailhook’ again, eh? I happened to be aboard NAS Miramar the very day Captain Rick ‘Wigs’ Ludwig was offered up on the San Diego Union’s front page as Cong. Patsy Schroeder’s most prominent sacrifical goat in the wake of that sordid matter. Still, the politically incorrect yet always unanswered ? remains 20+ years on: just what kind of behavior did this helo driver & other females expect at such a male gathering long & widely known for it’s predictably lewd, alcohol-fueled & sexually unrestrained misbehaviors? Any halfway attractive woman presuming she’ll be treated as just ‘one of the boys’ when said boys are all blind, groping drunk simply isn’t making the appropriate pre-flight calculus… My three daughters sure have enough sense to stay away from such scenes.

  2. Ah, yes. Another “she shouldn’t have been there” moment. Really? What did they expect? I suppose they expected that men shouldn’t behave this way and the military and society shouldn’t accept it. The idea that women should avoid “such scenes” is idiotic. Men should be held responsible for their bahvior instead of treating them as if they have no control over themselves. What exactly is “sexually unrestrained misbehavior” ? And why the hell should it be predictable? What kind of society (and miltary) are we accepting by using statements like that?

  3. The fact that so many women have come forward with allegations of sexual assault should alarm us all. Even though all of the allegations may not result in sexual assault convictions, what matters is that some kind of sexual misconduct occurred, whether forced or not.

    While any form of sexual assault is an egregious crime and should be prosecuted properly, it is not the only issue here. A culture of unprofessionalism has permeated the command structure at basic training, as evidenced by Staff Sgt. Vega-Maldonado being granted immunity in exchange for giving information on other cases. It is obvious, then, that whatever was going on, it was discussed amongst these MTIs for a prolonged period of time, with no action taken to stop these incidents.

    The toleration of such misconduct and the possibility of multiple sexual assaults being known but overlooked sends a message to military females and the American public that this kind of behavior is acceptable, and that females just have to “deal with it.” This creates a much larger issue than the incidents themselves and this perceived toleration of sexual degradation and lack of professionalism in the military needs to be addressed as a nation.

  4. HH Deever you are an F’n idiot. This has nothin to do with political correctness you moron. It has to do with THE LAW and human decency. I pray your daughters can trust Naval officers not to rape or sexually abuse them. She had to be there as the Admiral’s aide.

    The poor excuses for officers on that floor in Vegas should have been hammered right off the bat and the so called witch hunt would have never happened you sh!t bird

  5. As R. Good stated, not all these allegations will result in convictions, but what matters is that sexual misconduct occurred. I think the important note to take from this article is that spoken voices are being heard. The Air Force is committed to investigating these allegations to see what appropriate steps, if needed, to take. The Department of Defense has a zero tolerance policy against sexual assault, and the DoD is committed to making sure everyone understands that. Sexual assault awareness / prevention briefings are mandated for all service members, and those in leadership roles take additional training for awareness and prevention.
    I commend the women who came forward with their allegations of sexual assault. It shows that the DoD has created an environment that service members, especially women, feel comfortable enough to come forward with their experiences and talk with either their chain of command or a different service that is provided by the military. These women have made it possible for the Air Force, and DoD, become aware of the unprofessional conduct that has taken place in the training environment. It’s reassuring that the Air Force has taken this matter seriously since they are now conducting an investigation.

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