SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force, reeling from a scandal over sexual abuse of female recruits, said on Friday a search of its facilities across the globe turned up tens of thousands of items it considered to be “offensive, inappropriate or pornographic.”
The inspections of public areas on Air Force facilities over 12 days in December were aimed at heightening awareness among personnel about sexual violence and professionalism in the workplace, said Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh.
“I talked with airmen across the force and believe that some units were not meeting those standards,” he said. “Every airman deserves to be treated with respect. They also deserve to work in a professional environment.”
The Air Force was rocked last year by revelations that female recruits were sexually abused at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Eleven instructors at the base, the home of all Air Force basic military training, have been charged with offenses ranging from inappropriate behavior to sexual assault.
The Air Force has said that 48 women have come forward with what investigators consider credible stories of sexual misconduct.
The inspections, which did not include searches of private areas like barracks, found 631 items considered to be pornographic, including videos, posters and magazines. More than 27,000 items were judged “inappropriate or offensive” and ranged from posters to pictures and calendars.
Officials say the inappropriate items - including a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders poster and copies of the men’s magazine Maxim - were confiscated or destroyed since the inspected areas are considered to be U.S. government property.
Nancy Parrish, president of Protect Our Defenders, an advocacy group for military personnel who have been sexually assaulted, said many of the inspections were announced ahead of time, potentially allowing time for more offensive items to be moved.
Welsh did not say if any disciplinary action would be taken as a result of the inspections. He said a report on what was found in the searches has been turned over to an Air Force special investigations office.
Editing by Kevin Gray, Cynthia Johnston and Cynthia Osterman