Air Force Academy boss Lt. Gen. Jay Silveria caused a buzz in Congress this month with testimony that nearly reprised his famous 2017 “get out” speech to cadets.
The straight-talking former fighter pilot was called before the defense subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee along with other military academy bosses to discuss a recent report that showed a troubling trend in sexual assaults.
Silveria’s approach: Boot and court-martial cadets who commit crimes and care for the victims.
“They have no place at our academy and no place in our Air Force,” Silveria told the committee. “I will not rest — nor will anyone under my command — until every cadet at our academy is in an environment where they can focus solely on their professional and personal development.”
Silveria made headlines in 2017 when he addressed a racial slur scrawled on a message board at the school.
Silveria gathered the school’s cadets, faculty and staff in Mitchell Hall for a blunt talk.
“If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out,” the general barked.
While race-related incidents have ebbed at the school, sexual harassment and assault remains a problem.
The academy had 29 reported sexual assaults last year, but the Pentagon estimates that’s just 10 percent of the actual number of incidents at the school.
And a survey of cadets found that nearly half of female cadets had suffered some form of sexual harassment and 15 percent of the women had suffered unwanted sexual contact.
“Any instance of sexual harassment or sexual assault is a violation of the sacred trust we must have to be the best force for our nation,” Silveria told the committee.
Congress is leaning on the nation’s service academies to clean up sexual assault problems while mulling changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice that could give troops tougher sentences for sex crimes.
Silveria has rebuilt the school’s sexual assault prevention and response office during his time atop the school. He’s also brought tough standards for discipline designed to stamp out sexual misconduct.
“Sexual violence is about more than sex — it is about exploiting and manipulating disparities in power, and it is about control, and this behavior violates even the most minimal definition of respectful and dignified conduct,” Silveria said. “The bottom line is that if a person cannot adhere to our standards, they have no place at our academy. They have no place in our Air Force.”
Women are a growing component of the academy’s cadet wing. The next freshman class due to report this summer will have the highest percentage of females in the school’s history, with 33 percent.
Working with those growing numbers of women means embracing the “me too” movement, Silveria told the committee.
“Voices that for far too long were kept silent are now leading productive and transformative discussions on the change needed in our culture, and these voices are inspiring others to find the courage to speak,” Silveria said. “Our society is changing swiftly, and our academy and military must lead these developments.”
Contact Tom Roeder: 636-0240 Twitter: @xroederx