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Air Force orders search for obscene materials in base work areas

An Air Force Staff Sgt. poses with a copy of a pin-up magazine at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., on Aug. 17, 2012.

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Air Force officials started hunting this week for obscene material in all work areas at bases around the world.

The Air Force ordered the inspections at all of its installations in light of sexual misconduct complaints to the service’s top military leader.

Pictures of scantily clad women in calendars, posters or in briefing slides have no place in a professional workplace, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Air Force Times.

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Base military leaders will look for “anything that could be considered inappropriate” or that’s in poor taste, insensitive or creates a hostile work environment, Lt. Col. Laurel Tingley, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told the Dayton Daily News.

“We’re expected to foster a climate where airmen are comfortable, believe they are safe and can excel and thrive professionally and personally,” Col. Cassie Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander, said in a statement. “This inspection provides us with the opportunity to reinforce expectations (in) a professional workplace environment.” Wright-Patterson is among the Air Force’s largest bases with about 29,000 military and civilian employees.

“You’re talking about a base the size of Wright-Patt, this is a huge undertaking,” said Ron Fry, a spokesman at Air Force Materiel Command at Wright-Patterson.

Welsh told the Air Force Times he had received multiple complaints throughout the service about images, jokes and comments that made women and some men uncomfortable.

“In my view, all this stuff is connected,” he told the Air Force Times. “If we’re going to get serious about things like sexual assault, we have to get serious about an environment that could lead to sexual harassment. In some ways this stuff can all be linked. I’m not saying every case is linked, but it could be linked, and why would we want to tolerate there even being a chance of that?”

The directive follows allegations of sexual misconduct or unprofessional behavior between military training instructors and recruits at the Air Force’s enlisted boot camp at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas. Nearly two dozen instructors faced allegations, with 11 facing formal charges, in the cases involving dozens of recruits, The Associated Press has reported.

Last month, the Air Force’s top leaders issued a letter to airmen that the service anticipated more than 700 sexual assaults this year, or about 100 more than last year, Air Force Times reported.

At Wright-Patterson, the inspections will be conducted in government work areas under a commander’s command or control, a base statement said. The inspections would include break rooms, squadron recreation areas, briefing rooms, common areas in military dormitories and government computer-shared drives, among other places.

The inspections won’t include private areas such as drawers, lockers, brief cases, purses and individual computer hard drives and government or personal email accounts, according to Wright-Patterson.

“There’s no intent to any way violate people’s privacy or private space,” Fry said. “The emphasis is on common areas.” The spokesman said Thursday it was too soon to say if anything was discovered. “A lot of cases it will be a judgment call as to whether they fall within the parameters,” he said. “There’s an element of subjectivity here.”
 

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