ARLINGTON, Va. — As the Air Force struggles to come to grips with sexual assault in its ranks, it endured another high-profile setback: The chief of its sexual assault prevention and response branch was arrested this weekend and charged with sexual battery.
Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinski, 41, of Arlington, Va., was arrested early Sunday morning, according to the Arlington police. He’s accused of approaching a woman in a parking lot and grabbing her breasts and buttocks, according to the crime report. He has been removed from his position, said Air Force spokeswoman Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley.
Krusinski was released Sunday on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond.
On Capitol Hill to testify on the defense budget, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the Air Force has requested jurisdiction in the Krusinski case from prosecutors in Arlington, where he will be arraigned on one count of sexual battery. A decision on jurisdiction should be made at that time, Welsh said.
“We have requested jurisdiction, which is standard procedure in cases like these,” Welsh said.
In a call Monday evening with Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “expressed outrage and disgust over the troubling allegations,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement, which did not mention Krusinski by name. Hagel “emphasized that this matter will be dealt with swiftly and decisively,” Little said.
Little said Hagel has been directing the department’s leaders to elevate their focus on sexual assault prevention and response, and he will soon announce “next steps in our ongoing efforts to combat this vile crime.”
Krusinski has served in Afghanistan, in addition to serving as the deputy expeditionary mission support group commander at Joint Base Balad in Iraq, and commander of 6th Force Support Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla. He attended the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he lettered in baseball.
In 2009, Krusinski was recognized by Air Mobility Command’s Manpower, Personnel and Services Directorate as its Force Support Field Grade Officer of the Year while assigned to MacDill, according to an archived news release on the Air Force’s web site.
Krusinski’s arrest comes at a time when the Pentagon and the Air Force are already under intense scrutiny for not doing enough to stop sexual assault among the ranks following several high-profile incidents.
The Air Force recently came under fire for a decision by a lieutenant general to throw out the sexual assault conviction of fighter pilot Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Wilkerson, 44, the former inspector general for the 31st Fighter Wing at Aviano Air Base in Italy, was convicted last year of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to a year in jail, forfeiture of pay and dismissal from the Air Force. Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin overturned the sentence and reinstated Wilkerson into the Air Force.
The nomination of Lt. Gen. Susan J. Helms as vice commander of Space Command has been blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., a member of the Armed Services Committee, who wants to examine Helms’ previously unpublicized decision to overturn the conviction, on charges of aggravated sexual assault, of a captain at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
Additionally, 17 training instructors at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the Air Force’s basic training facility, have been convicted of misconduct with trainees, from fraternization to sexual assault. More cases are still under investigation.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III has emphasized preventing sexual assault and sexual harassment and respect among airmen since he took over the job last year.
“Every time I hear about another case, it breaks my heart,” he said in a video posted on the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention website. “You know what right looks like.”
In an interview with Stars and Stripes last summer before he was confirmed as chief of staff, Welsh said that sexual assault “just has the potential to rip the fabric of your force apart. I think it is doing that to a certain extent now.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat and longtime critic of how the military handles sexual assault cases, said news of Krusinski’s arrest made her physically ill.
“How many more reasons do we need to take cases of rape and sexual assault out of the chain of command?” she said.