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THE NATION

New Air Force Academy Head Pins Scandal on Predecessors

August 30, 2003|From Associated Press

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The new superintendent of the Air Force Academy on Friday blamed his predecessors for the sexual assault scandal, telling parents of cadets it was "unbelievable" that no one knew how bad things were.

Stalking across a stage in front of about 1,000 people gathered for parents' weekend, Lt. Gen. John A. Rosa warned that the existence of the prestigious school was at stake.

Speaking a day after the cadet commandant gave a similar warning to the 4,000-strong student body, Rosa also referred to a Defense Department survey that found nearly one in five female cadets say they had been sexually assaulted during their time at school.

"We've got to stop rationalizing, fooling ourselves that the survey wasn't right," Rosa said. "We've got to get over it. We can't blame the press. These numbers have been floating around for years."

In an unusual move from a top military official, Rosa also suggested previous commanders missed the signs of a major problem right under their noses.

"I don't buy that nobody knew what was going on. It's just unbelievable to me that nobody knew what was going on," said Rosa, who took over at the academy last month.

Among those in the audience was Neil Mullin of Gadsden, Ala., whose son Reagan is a first-year cadet.

"We were very much concerned before we got here," Mullin said. "Now we think it's the best time for him to be here because the rules are being tightened."

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