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5 MTIs spared discharges at trial are now out of AF

Aug. 9, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
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Five former military training instructors sentenced to jail time but spared a punitive discharge in a series of courts-martial at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland are no longer in the Air Force.

Four were administratively discharged after they were convicted. A fifth was separated at the end of his term of service.

Two dozen ex-MTIs have been found guilty of charges ranging from inappropriate relationships to rape in a basic training scandal that began with a sexual assault allegation against an instructor in June 2011. Military judges or juries kicked out nine of them as part of their sentences.

Although the remaining 15 initially were allowed to stay in the military, the Air Force said they could be separated later. Air Education and Training Command refused to identify the five who have since been discharged.

The type of discharge determines what, if any, benefits an airman could receive. For example, a service member may qualify for GI Bill benefits only if he or she receives an honorable discharge. A discharge under other than honorable conditions could “deprive a veteran of benefits based on military service,” AETC said in an email. “The agency that administers the benefits makes a determination in each case.”

The Air Force cannot discharge an airman under other than honorable conditions solely because he or she was spared a punitive discharge at court-martial — unless the service secretary signs off on it, AETC said.

Honorable discharges are usually awarded to airmen who met Air Force conduct and performance standards or for those whose service was “otherwise so meritorious that any other characterization would be inappropriate,” according to the email from AETC. A general discharge is likely if misconduct outweighs the positive aspects of an airman’s career.

A new Air Force instruction would allow commanders to initiate separation proceedings for airmen in special positions of trust who use that position to engage in inappropriate relationships. Commanders now must also begin the discharge process for any airman convicted of rape, sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact, abusive sexual contact or forcible sodomy.

None of the 15 MTIs spared a punitive discharge at sentencing committed one of those crimes. Several of them, however, were found guilty of having sex with basic trainees. Many lawmakers and victim advocates have said trainees under the control of an MTI cannot consent.

The nine sentenced to a bad conduct or dishonorable discharge may end up staying in the Air Force longer than those who weren’t. They can’t be kicked out of the service until after their appeals are exhausted, AETC spokeswoman Capt. Ashley Walker said in an email.

Walker said a number of discharge actions are still pending.

The Air Force would not say whether any of those who remain in the service will be forced out under separation rollbacks. Under the rules, any airman awaiting discharge for cause or who has spent at least five days in confinement will be forced out in September.

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