Ripple effect of Osan scandal hits other members of town patrol team
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — The bribery and shakedown scandal that engulfed an Air Force police team at Osan Air Base damaged team members’ morale, cost most their jobs and hurt the team’s credibility with the Korean public, according to a senior team member.
The remarks about the base’s Songtan Town Patrol came this week in testimony during the court-martial of the team’s former officer-in-charge, 1st Lt. Jason D. Davis. The team patrols the Shinjang bar district just outside the base.
Davis was sentenced Wednesday to dismissal from the Air Force and two years in prison after pleading guilty Tuesday to a wide range of crimes committed while he was the police team’s leader. He’d headed the team until his March 1 arrest.
Osan officials declined to be interviewed about town patrol issues because various post-trial and other administrative matters remain pending in the Davis case, said 7th Air Force spokesman Capt. David Smith. “It would be inappropriate for us to discuss the case at this time,” he said.
Following Davis’ arrest, base officials ordered the town patrol reshuffled, an event that provoked bitter anger among the members, according to Master Sgt. Suzanne Silkett of the 51st Security Forces Squadron and the town patrol’s noncommissioned officer-in-charge at the time.
All but four of the team’s dozen members were to be reassigned.
“I had to inform them that they were no longer going to be on town patrol,” said Silkett, her voice quavering with emotion during much of her Tuesday testimony.
“There wasn’t a whole lot I could say. … They were very angry. … Some of them were so angry — the look on their faces. … Some of them started cleaning out their lockers, they were slamming doors.”
But the effect on those who were reassigned and the strain on those who worked to keep the team operating wasn’t the only fallout from the incident.
“I think we lost a lot of credibility,” Silkett testified.
She said local Koreans in the bar district, as well as Americans, noticed the change.
“It was like an embarrassment to us,” she testified, adding that town patrol members making their rounds found themselves the target of “harassing comments.”
Davis pleaded guilty Tuesday to conduct unbecoming an officer; activities prejudicial to good order and discipline or that were discrediting to the service; violation of orders; and making a false official statement.
He admitted to running unauthorized sting operations; accepting cash and gifts from club owners; maintaining illicit sexual liaisons with bar girls; violating the U.S. military’s curfew; being drunk and disorderly; having sex with women not his wife; illegally possessing weapons and ammunition; illegally maintaining an off-base apartment; using racial and ethnic slurs; filing a leave request with false information as to his intended destination; and to an improper relationship with a subordinate airman.
Earlier Tuesday, in related testimony, a former team member told of two incidents in which Davis’ actions caused embarrassment and threatened the team’s public image and effectiveness.
Staff Sgt. Michael L. Areniego, currently assigned to the 314th Security Forces Squadron at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., was with the 51st Security Forces Squadron at Osan from January 2004 until this past January. He was a town patrol member during part of his Osan tour.
Areniego testified he and another town patrol airman saw Davis at the local Yongchon hotel. They were struck that Davis was out past midnight. “We were looking at our watches,” Areniego said.
Davis told them the manager had some matters he needed to discuss with Davis, Areniego said.
They saw a female bar girl from the Philippines and noticed she had changed “from her work attire to her going-home attire,” Areniego testified. The woman and Davis went to the manager’s office, Areniego said, then Davis said he was going to go home.
Areniego testified he and the other town patrol airman worried the Koreans might think them corrupt for letting a fellow town-patrol member violate the same curfew the town patrol routinely upheld with other airmen.
“I felt irritated,” Areniego said. “It angered me because he was putting us in a position I didn’t want to be in.
“We do this to other people," he said of the town patrol’s curfew enforcement. “Our job is to make sure” that all servicemembers keep the curfew “and he was putting us in this position. So we tried to give the perception that we were following him out … so they wouldn’t think we were condoning his act … because he was our boss.”
Areniego recounted another incident in which he said Davis’ actions caused worry.
One night in July 2004, Areniego said, he was in charge of the town patrol when he learned some airmen were working an undercover sting at a local club on Davis’ orders. Base leadership had not authorized the sting, aimed at trying to catch the club selling alcohol to underage servicemembers or engaging in illegal sex traffic, Areniego testified, adding that he worried in part that the illicit sting might harm the “relationship” between the town patrol and local Koreans.
“There would just be no trust,” he said.
No decision yet on Davis' request to resign
SEOUL — The Secretary of the Air Force hasn’t decided whether to allow 1st Lt. Jason D. Davis to resign in lieu of court-martial, even though Davis was sentenced Wednesday to two years in prison and dismissal from the Air Force.
Davis pleaded guilty this week to conduct unbecoming an officer, activities prejudicial to good order and discipline or that were discrediting to the service, violation of orders and making a false official statement. On July 6, he requested to resign under the legal procedure known as a RILO.
Pete Geren, acting secretary of the Air Force, must decide whether to grant Davis’ request.
Air Force headquarters granted permission to court-martial Davis with the requirement that the convening authority in the case take no further action in the matter — including enacting any punishments — until Geren makes the RILO decision.
Processing a RILO request typically has taken about 100 days, according to the Air Force.
— Stars and Stripes