Fort Sill’s commanding general said he is committed to transparency in the investigation of allegations of sexual assault lodged against instructors, but making sure “it gets done right” could mean it may be “a little slower than any of us would like.”
Special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command continue to investigate allegations reported by a female trainee, and the FBI has been brought into the investigation in a consultation role.
In a press conference April 1, Fort Sill Commander Maj. Gen. Ken Kamper said a trainee assigned to Fort Sill had reported a sexual assault to post officials. He didn’t say when the assault took place but said the female trainee made the report March 27.
Kamper said his role in the investigation process is limited to updates through the Staff Judge Advocate’s Office.
“So (CID) is the lead on the investigation,” Kamper said in an exclusive interview last week with The Constitution. “They have coordinated with other law enforcement agencies, to include the FBI, and I would probably characterize it, in some ways, as consultation — we just want to make sure we’re doing the right things right.”
While the FBI, as is policy, declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, a spokesperson for the CID confirmed the FBI and other agencies are assisting with the investigation but did not specify the other agencies involved.
“CID Agents have been working aggressively and around the clock on this investigation since it was reported,” said Christopher Grey, a CID official. “They are using all resources at their disposal and have coordinated with other law enforcement agencies to include the FBI. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command has dispatched additional specialized agents to Fort Sill to work on this investigation. We are committed to protecting victims, preserving the due process rights of all involved and seeking justice. No further information will be released at this time to protect the integrity of the investigative process.”
Kamper said he has confidence in the investigative process and the agencies involved and also understands the need to provide answers quickly. He said that, in an effort to be clearer, he is now calling the accused soldiers “instructors” rather than cadre. He said the term cadre could confuse the general public who were not familiar with military terms.
“It will take as long as it takes is what I’ve come to realize,” Kamper said. “We don’t want this investigation so fast that it doesn’t get done right.”
Kamper said he is committed to being as transparent as possible with the investigation but he also has to protect the integrity of the investigation.
“The reality is (the investigation is) probably going to go a little slower than any of us would like,” Kamper said. “I want to know what happened just as much as everybody else does and we’ll get there.”
When the allegations came to light March 27, Kamper said his staff took immediate action.
“We got a whole set of leaders that have done the right thing in response to this,” Kamper said. “Both in the short term and then just looking long term, to do a check on our systems with what we know now, and then as the investigation progresses and we learn more, we’re going to go back and review all of our systems. Just to make sure … because one is too many. We have to eradicate sexual assault, sexual harassment and extremism racism. We have to eradicate those things out of our Army.”
Kamper said the overwhelming majority of soldiers “would rush into a burning building to save someone they don’t know.” He said that’s the culture and mentality he wants to see instilled in the soldiers under his command.
Kamper said his efforts to prevent anything like the sexual assault allegations from happening again are personal. His son, who is attending college, and his daughter could potentially join the Army. He said he is confident they will join an environment where “they can thrive. They can learn and grow and do something positive for their country.”
“We need that same mentality to care for each other, to care for each other so deeply that we don’t let sexual assault, sexual harassment, extremism, we just don’t let it happen because we care for each other so deeply,” Kamper said. “That’s where we’re headed moving forward. We can do this, down to the lowest levels of our Army and certainly here.”
While the investigation proceeds, Kamper said he and his staff have already taken steps to improve the climate and culture on the post. He said all Advanced Individual Training students, specifically women, have participated in focus groups giving the students an open forum to discuss issues. He said every drill sergeant and instructor on the post has been engaged by Fort Sill and brigade level senior leaders to reinforce the climate to defeat sexual assault and sexual harassment. A mentorship and advisory council has been created with the goal of implementing a junior soldier advisory council with direct access to post senior leaders to voice issues and concerns.
“Fort Sill is a big place,” Kamper said. “We’ve got over 400 drill sergeants and over 580 instructors that are all involved in basic training and advanced individual training of turning citizens into soldiers. Overwhelmingly, the pride and quality of training and instruction is simply tremendous. We’ve got layers of systems and screenings and training to absolutely mitigate the risk of sexual assault in the training environment, and by and large it works very well, but one is too many.”
“I’m confident that we have an environment in the Army where America’s sons and daughters can come join a team and be just incredibly proud of what they’re doing for our nation and to serve our nation,” he said.