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Air Force Official to Dress Down Cadets

August 26, 2003

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AP) _ The entire cadet corps will get a dressing down because of a weekend underage drinking incident that embarrassed an Air Force Academy still struggling to overcome a sexual assault scandal, the new superintendent said Tuesday.

All 4,000 students at the academy outside Colorado Springs will be lectured Thursday about the consequences to their military careers and to the institution, Lt. Gen. John W. Rosa told The Associated Press in an interview.

``We’re going to try to turn this around Thursday to a positive, say, `Look, if we knock this behavior off we’re going to move forward,‴ Rosa said. ``’Every time we have this kind of behavior, we backstep. We backstep in the eyes of ourselves, of our peers. We backstep in the eyes of Colorado Springs, of Colorado, of this nation. We cannot afford to do that.‴

The speech will be given by Brig. Gen. Johnny Weida, commandant of cadets.

Seven 20- and 21-year-old cadets were caught in a hotel room off-campus early Saturday with two young women, 16 and 18 years old. Those under 21 were ticketed by police for drinking.

Rosa said any cadet found to have supplied alcohol to a minor would most likely be expelled from the academy under a zero-tolerance drinking policy that is part of the ``agenda of change″ ordered by the Air Force.

Freshman Daniel Kimmich of San Diego said there is no excuse for breaking the rules. ``We heard about alcohol twice a day during basic training and if you drank underage you would be out of here,″ he said.

Rosa, who took command of the academy in July, said he and his staff are reviewing the policies on alcohol, which has been present in many of the sexual assault cases.

Rosa and Weida replaced commanders who were ousted after failing to correct a climate in which female cadets said they were ostracized after they reported being assaulted by fellow cadets.

At least 146 sexual assault cases have been reported to the academy in the past decade, ranging from improper touching to rape.

Rosa noted that drinking and attendance problems are common on college campuses nationwide, but drew a distinction between other schools and the academy, where future military leaders are trained in warfare and discipline at a cost to taxpayers of $300,000 each for four years.

``They’re young people,″ Rosa said. ``Some of them get it and some of them don’t. Unfortunately, in an institution that’s on the front page of every newspaper, like the United States Air Force Academy, the 1 percent that don’t get it harm the entire organization.″

``We’re all just college kids,″ senior cadet Aaron Donne of Corvallis, Ore., said on the academy grounds. ``But we are held to a higher standard. We have to accept it. If cadets don’t understand it, they shouldn’t be here.″

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