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Sex with drill sergeant was part of ‘the game’

May 29, 1997

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (AP) _ At least six drill sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground were involved in a secret game of sex with trainees, and Staff Sgt. Vernell Robinson Jr. saw himself as a ``gangster″ in the game, one of the sergeants testified today.

That meant Robinson apparently felt he was untouchable, Staff Sgt. Wayne Gamble said at Robinson’s court-martial, testifying under immunity from prosecution as part of a plea agreement in his own sexual misconduct case.

Gamble said he and Robinson along with Staff Sgts. Marvin Kelley, William Howard and Jeffrey Ralls, and Sgt. 1st Class William Jones were players in a game of personal relationships with trainees, which is forbidden by Army rules.

The game included selecting young women as potential sexual partners as they arrived at the post from basic training for three months of advanced individual training, Gamble said.

Kelley and Jones have also been charged with sexual misconduct; Jones’ trial is scheduled to begin July 7. Howard and Ralls remain drill sergeants after an investigation produced no evidence of sexual misconduct, Aberdeen spokesman Ed Starnes said.

Gamble, 36, said the sergeants looked out for each other. ``Basically, you cover each other’s butt,″ Gamble said.

Gamble said he warned Robinson at one point to slow down his sexual activity with two of the trainees.

``He said, `The game is good and I’m a gangster,‴ Gamble said. ``I took it to mean he felt untouchable, sir.″

Gamble was the prosecution’s final witness.

The defense rested after calling one witness, Sgt. Major Charlie Shields, a character witness who supervises Robinson in his current administrative duties.

Robinson’s trial on 20 counts, mostly sexual misconduct, began Wednesday. He is charged with having sex with five trainees and then interfering in the investigation against him. Nine of the charges carry maximum 5-year prison terms.

Robinson’s court-martial is the third stemming from an investigation at Aberdeen that has led to criminal charges against 12 staff members and triggered a probe of sexual misconduct at U.S. military bases worldwide.

Four of the women indicated on Wednesday they had consensual sex with Robinson, 32, while training at Aberdeen last year; a fifth testified he raped her although a rape charge was dropped Tuesday.

The offenses allegedly occurred from April to September 1996, when Robinson, was a drill sergeant in the 16th Ordnance Battalion at Aberdeen, a training and weapons testing center 30 miles northeast of Baltimore. He’s separated from his wife.

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