Crackdown Could Cost Cadet Her Career
Dec. 10, 2003
AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) _ In a striking example of how discipline is changing at the Air Force Academy in the wake of its sexual assault scandal, a cadet may be expelled after turning herself in for taking a single sip of whiskey.
New commanders, trying to erase the image of a school that ignored assault victims, have demanded that sophomore Christina Fifer, 19, reveal the name of the senior cadet who gave her the alcohol. They accused her of showing ``misplaced loyalty'' by refusing a direct order.
``I'd rather leave with my integrity intact than stay without it,'' Fifer, of Inverness, Fla., said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Academy officials declined immediate comment on the case.
The academy adopted a zero-tolerance policy on underage drinking after dozens of female cadets said they were reprimanded or ostracized when they reported being raped. The academy's top commanders were replaced and other strict rules were adopted.
An Air Force investigation found that alcohol was involved in at least 40 percent of the assault cases. Under the new policy, any cadet 21 and older who provides alcohol to a minor faces dismissal.
A member of the ROTC at Citrus High School in Inverness, Fifer said the Air Force has long been her career choice. She hoped to fly search-and-rescue planes, but now wonders if she will be kicked out of the military.
In early September, Fifer and another cadet drove from the academy to a nearby campsite. The other cadet, who was 21, had whiskey, and Fifer said she took a sip after asking permission.
She said she reported the infraction three weeks later because of her belief in the school's honor code, which says cadets cannot lie, cheat or steal or tolerate others who do. She was restricted to school grounds for 60 days and forfeited some of her pay.
Fifer said her immediate superior told her she would not have to identify the other cadet, but Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. John Rosa later issued a written order to Fifer.
Fifer's squadron commander, Lt. Col. Daniel C. Blaetter, wrote in a letter that she showed ``misplaced loyalty and was in violation of her oath to obey the lawful orders of those appointed over her.''
Cadets who admit drinking underage generally face punishment ranging from restriction to the base to loss of pay, said John Buckley, Fifer's attorney. He said his client could be expelled for refusing to obey a direct order.
Fifer said she believes the possible punishment is overkill resulting from the scandal.
``They laughed at me in the alcohol counseling program when I said I had just had one sip and spit it out,'' she said. ``They require the best of us, but expect the worst.''
Buckley said commanders have tried to bully Fifer into talking, even interfering when she meets with attorneys.
``They told me I would be out of here within a week,'' Fifer said.
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