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The acting secretary of the Army has sent a team to examine sexual misconduct in Europe.

This week, staff from the Army inspector general’s office began asking soldiers about their observations and complaints.

Secretary Les Brownlee dispatched the team to Europe at a time when sexual misconduct in the military is under intense scrutiny.

Brownlee’s office is conducting its own investigation worldwide via the Army Manpower and Reserve Affairs Sexual Assault Task Force. In February, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called for a 90-day investigation specifically looking into charges of sexual assault against women serving in Iraq and Kuwait.

The number of bases visited by the Army IG team was unavailable, according to Michael Tolzmann, a spokesman with U.S. Army Europe. And though the nature of the IG “sensing sessions” wasn’t announced, they usually take one of three forms.

“They can be done in groups, they can be done one-on-one, and they can be done via questionnaire,” said Lt. Col. Jane Crichton, a spokeswoman with U.S. Army Europe. “What methods this particular team is using, I’m not sure.”

This Army IG investigation is not directly part of the broader investigations, but not entirely independent of them, either. The Defense Department’s IG office, for example, sometimes tasks its service branch equivalent to examine issues. The findings from Europe may also be used by the Army task force.

On Wednesday, victims’ advocacy groups testified before Congress on assaults in Iraq and Afghanistan, equating them with “friendly fire,” according to news reports.

Army Capt. Jennifer Machmer stunned lawmakers when she told of being verbally harassed by one soldier and later sexually abused by a chaplain before deploying downrange. She said she was later raped by an attacker in the Gulf. Machmer is currently fighting a medical discharge.

The problem is reported both beyond the Gulf and beyond the Army. In March, commanders throughout the Pacific Air Forces were ordered to improve the way the services treat victims and investigate sex crime allegations after a five-month review examining 92 rape cases dating from 2001 to 2003.

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