May 23, 2013— -- A U.S. Army sergeant is accused of secretly videotaping at least a dozen female cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon, a decorated Iraq War veteran, has since been removed from duty and sent to Fort Drum in Jefferson County, N.Y., as the Army investigates accusations that he took dozens of photos and videos of naked female cadets for nearly five years, the military academy said Wednesday.
McClendon "was in possession of inappropriate images allegedly taken without the victims consent," Army spokesman George Wright said.
The Army's charging documents allege that McClendon made some of the recordings while the women were in a bathroom at the New York school and "preparing to take a shower."
McClendon is facing charges of dereliction of duty, mistreatment, entering a women's bathroom without notice, and taking and possessing inappropriate photos and videos.
He and his lawyer have not returned a request for comment.
McClendon lived and worked with the cadets at West Point as a tactical non-commissioned officer. His job description says he was there to coach and train 121 cadets about "leadership and responsibility."
McClendon joined the Army in 1990 and trained as a combat engineer, according to his military service record. He served two tours of duty in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and from 2007 to 2009. He was given numerous awards, including a Bronze Star.
"They are serious charges but I mean they scratch the surface of what's happening at West Point, what's happening at all the other academies," said Anu Bhagwati, executive director for Service Women's Action Network, an advocacy group led by women veterans.
"I think this behavior absolutely damages the reputation of West Point," Bhagwati said. "I mean West Point is considered the elite academy."
Gen. John Campbell, the vice chief of staff of the Army, said in a statement, "The Army is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our cadets at the Military Academy at West Point, as well as all soldiers throughout our Army. Once notified of the violation, a full investigation was launched followed by swift action to correct the problem.
"Our cadets must be confident that issues such as these are handled quickly and decisively, and that our system will hold those responsible accountable," he added.
The latest allegations come to light as the military is under intense scrutiny for its mistreatment of women. A Pentagon report released earlier this month said there were a total of 3,374 reports of sexual assaults involving service members as either victims or subjects and, of those, 2,558 were investigated or prosecuted last year. The reports involved offenses ranging from rape to abusive sexual contact.
The Pentagon believes that sexual assaults are underreported and calculates that that there could possibly have been as many as 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in 2012.
Earlier this month, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, who led the Air Force's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, was removed from his post in the Air Force after he was arrested on charges of groping a woman in a parking lot.
President Obama said he has "no tolerance" for sexual assault in the military and perpetrators are "betraying the uniform that they're wearing."