Army Disqualifies 588 Soldiers from 'Positions of Trust'

The Army's review of 20,000 "positions of trust" among its sexual assault response coordinators, recruiters and drill instructors has disqualified 588 soldiers from those positions for infractions ranging from sexual assault to prior DUIs.

The number of soldiers disqualified from the positions was a significant increase from the 55 the Army reported last August after a quick review of personnel files. The Army's latest figures for disqualifications were first reported by USA Today.

Last May, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the military services to screen their ranks of sexual assault counselors for individuals who should not be assigned to those jobs because of unethical or bad behavior, even criminal behavior.

The move came in the wake of several high-profile sexual assault incidents that made national news because the personnel involved were service members assigned to help sexual assault victims. Around the same time, the Pentagon also released figures estimating 26,000 incidents of unwanted sexual contact in 2012, a 35 percent increase from the previous survey two years earlier.

After initially focusing on Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, the Army broadened its review to include recruiters and drill sergeants, which meant that, ultimately, 20,000 soldiers had their personnel files reviewed.

Sexual Assault Response Coordinators are soldiers assigned to assist sexual assault victims in their units who have received training to assist sexual assault victims in their units. They are not trained psychologists or mental health experts.

Army officials confirmed that the review ultimately determined that 588 soldiers should be disqualified from their "positions of trust." It was unclear what happened to the 588 disqualified soldiers and whether they were reassigned or were still in the service.

In announcing the Army's review last May, Army Secretary John McHugh said screening standards would be enhanced to "better ensure that we select and retain only the best qualified personnel in all of these key positions."

On Tuesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said Secretary Hagel "has been exceedingly clear about the need to continue stamping out sexual assault from our ranks. That's why he directed each service last May to conduct a thorough review of people in positions of trust."

Kirby said Hagel was "was happy to learn that the Army widened the scope of their review and he is grateful for the work they have done to get a better grip on a very difficult issue and hold people accountable."

The Navy, Air Force and Marines also conducted similar reviews, which meant that about 35,000 military personnel were screened. The number of personnel disqualified by the Air Force and Navy reviews were in the low single digits. The Marine Corps review did not result in any disqualifications.