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Air Force reviewing booking policy after complaints about comedian

RAF MILDENHALL, England — A comedian’s on-base performance at RAF Lakenheath, in which he joked about spiking a woman’s drink to obtain sex, has prompted Air Force officials to review procedures regarding entertainment provided to troops.

Comedian Mitch Fatel’s act last weekend in England caught the attention of Air Force officials, including Col. Mark K. Ciero, the 48th Wing vice commander, who was in the audience for the Aug. 10 performance.

In a commentary posted on the RAF Lakenheath website, Ciero described Fatel’s act as “crude.”

At the start of the routine, the comedian came close, but did not cross the line on being overly inappropriate, Ciero wrote.

But, then Fatel “insulted women’s anatomies, added a punch line about spiking drinks to facilitate sex, described repeatedly removing undergarments while whispering ‘she was asleep,’ ” Ciero wrote in his commentary. “Then in his coup de grace, demonstrated how to physically push a lady into oral sex and remove the evidence. The headliner hit the line obliquely, kept assaulting, and crossed headstrong.”

The performance comes at a time when the U.S. military is reeling from a number of sex assault scandals that have prompted top military and civilian leadership to stress a zero-tolerance policy toward such incidents.

Recently, the Air Force came out with a tough new policy that says airmen who commit any type of sexual misconduct, whether groping a co-worker or rape, face dismissal from the service.

The Pentagon says there were more than 3,000 cases of sexual assault reported in the military last year and almost 800 of those were in the Air Force.

Additionally, Gen. Mark Welsh III, Air Force chief of staff, has repeatedly called on all airmen to help stop sexual assault in the service.

“Everybody in our Air Force needs to think that way and every commander, every supervisor who isn’t actively engaged in being part of the solution of this is part of the problem,” Welsh said just prior to taking over his post in August 2012.

In his commentary on the Lakenheath website, Ciero criticized his own lack of action during the show, calling it an example of what airmen should not do.

“I left the show. I could have taken charge, upheld the line of our new military culture of professionalism and respect, and interrupted the comedian,” Ciero wrote. “As Airmen and leaders, we are taught to intervene ... On all accounts, I failed to stand up and take the sword from the attacker, the microphone from the comedian. Instead, I departed and reported.

“For those I left behind in the Liberty Club still under assault by the headliner, sorry. No airman, no human, deserves the depravity shrouded in comedy associated with our military,” he said.

In a telephone interview Friday, Ciero said his commander and officials at 3rd Air Force and U.S. Air Forces in Europe were aware of the issues with the performance. He said he was told “that we’re going to go back and re-evaluate the processes and procedures we put in place to make sure that entertainers follow the guidelines that they’re given.”

Fatel’s tour schedule on the Armed Forces Entertainment website shows he visited bases in Germany and England before ending at Lakenheath. An official with USAFE said complaints were lodged after an earlier performance at RAF Croughton, England.

Attempts to reach Fatel’s media agent and representatives of Armed Forces Entertainment, which booked the act, were unsuccessful before deadline Friday.

mathis.adam@stripes.com
 

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