HOUSTON -- A sex scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas has led to the dismissal of the top commander overseeing basic training for every new American airman, officials said Friday.
Col. Glenn Palmer was commander of basic training for the 737th Training Group at the base near San Antonio, where more than a dozen military instructors in the last year have been charged with or investigated on suspicion of sexually assaulting recruits.
On Friday, officials confirmed reports by the Associated Press that Palmer had been relieved of duty by Col. Eric Axelbank, commander of the 37th training wing at Lackland.
“Col. Palmer was relieved because Col. Eric Axelbank lost confidence in his ability to maintain a safe and secure training environment for our newest airmen,” Collen McGee, spokeswoman for the 37th Training Wing, told the Los Angeles Times. Axelbank decided that, for the 737th group, “a new leader is required to meet the current needs,” she said.
But, McGee added, “Col. Palmer did not create the environment that resulted in the misconduct.”
No replacement had been announced, she said.
Palmer isn’t the first Lackland commander removed since the scandal erupted last year.
In June, Axelbank relieved Col. Mike Paquette, commander of the 331st Training Squadron, for what a military attorney described as a loss of confidence in his leadership.
Axelbank is also expected to change command next month, a move Air Force officials said predated the sex scandal, according to the AP.
Lackland has about 475 military training instructors, the Air Force equivalent of drill sergeants. So far, six instructors have been charged with offenses ranging from rape to adultery, and investigators believe that more than three dozen female trainees have been victimized.
Last month, Staff Sgt. Luis Walker, the first Lackland instructor investigated last year in connection with the scandal, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of raping a female recruit and sexually assaulting several others.