Originally created 09/06/97

General defends sex-training charges

COLUMBIA - Fort Jackson's new commander says the Army is "right on track" in its response to sex-related problems at a Maryland base and planned changes should make his job easier as head of the Army's largest basic training center.

Maj. Gen. John Van Alstyne took command in July. He greets a steady stream of visitors, from politicians to military leaders, who come to examine gender-integrated basic training.

Since a group of drill sergeants at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., were charged with sexually abusing trainees last fall, the Army's policies on training men and women together have been questioned.

Four Fort Jackson drill sergeants have been court-martialed since then. Two were acquitted, one convicted and sentenced to four years in prison, and one dishonorably discharged after a plea bargain.

In the coming year, the Army is likely to change how it selects and trains drill sergeants and extend basic training to teach values and ethics.

"My sense is this scrutiny has been transformed by people at Fort Jackson into an opportunity to show how good they are at going about this business," Maj. Gen. Van Alstyne said in an interview with a Columbia newspaper Thursday. "Most people go away believing the folks who work at Fort Jackson have it right."

Maj. Gen. Van Alstyne, a career infantryman, described his style as low-key and introspective. His job involves overseeing the Army's largest population of drill sergeants and trainees.

"I like to think of myself as a caring person who has respect for the dignity of others. I work every day to make sure I treat people right," the commander said.


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