Monday, April 18, 2011

Sexual Relationships ‘Rampant’ in Military Wing

Sexual Relationships ‘Rampant’ in Military Wing
By Scott Fontaine

The wing commander didn’t have a lock on workplace relationships.
Many members of the 121st Air Refueling Wing were friends with one another; some even became lovers, according to the Air Force inspector general’s office.
Investigators had set out to look into complaints about wing commander Brig. Gen. Thomas Botchie and uncovered a unit rife with cronyism and romance.
Witnesses told of officers dating enlisted airmen, including a colonel who eventually married an enlisted female airman who worked in the wing. Sexual relationships between officers and enlisted airmen, one officer testified, were “rampant” and an “accepted practice.”
The stories prompted investigators to look into the workplace relationships of Col. Stephen McMahon, the commander of the wing’s operations unit. In the end, they determined McMahon probably had exposed himself when he went skinny-dipping on a temporary duty assignment, had sexually harassed female subordinates and had an inappropriate consensual sexual relationship with a senior master sergeant.
Maj. Gen. Gregory Wayt, then the adjutant general of the Ohio National Guard, removed McMahon from his position last year. McMahon then retired.
McMahon was on a temporary duty assignment to Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, in the fall of 2006, when he took a nighttime skinny-dip, according to the report.
McMahon claimed he left a group at the hotel bar, walked to a nearby lagoon, took off his clothes and jumped in the water. He told investigators other members of the group joined him later, and he never exposed himself.
Skinny-dipping “is a practice I’ve partaken in all my life at my family farm, and I foolishly allowed myself to do it in this setting,” he testified, adding the incident was a “single lapse in judgment.”
A technical sergeant testified McMahon approached a group at the patio bar, asked if anyone wanted to go swimming and dropped his towel before running into the lagoon. Several people followed him.
“I remember just sitting there with my mouth open like I couldn’t believe that,” the sergeant said.
Two complaints of sexual harassment stemmed from the same night, when McMahon was at a military ball.
A female major was standing near McMahon in the food-serving line, and the colonel apparently told her, “Don’t think for a minute that I can’t take that [dress] right off you,” according to the report.
A senior airman told investigators an intoxicated McMahon noticed a birthmark on her upper back and grabbed her.
“I knew he used that as an excuse to put his hand on my back,” she said.
McMahon then flirted with her, which embarrassed her because she didn’t want others to assume they had an inappropriate relationship. His comments included compliments about her low-cut dress.
“He wasn’t making eye contact with me,” she testified. “He was looking other places.”
McMahon told investigators he didn’t remember either of the incidents but admitted to drinking alcohol that night.
Much about McMahon’s relationship with the senior master sergeant was redacted from the report. A few details, though, still are visible.
One airman described seeing McMahon and the senior master sergeant alone in the senior NCO’s office many times. On one occasion, the airman tried to call the senior master sergeant’s office but received no answer. Shortly after making the call, the airman saw McMahon leave.
He was “walking funny down the hall” because “his clothes weren’t on accurate,” she told investigators.
From September 2006 to February 2008, McMahon made more than 175 phone calls — including “numerous” on weekends — to the senior master sergeant.
McMahon told investigators the calls were all in some way work-related. The senior master sergeant disputed the number of calls, claiming McMahon had contacted her “only a few” tines.
Investigators doubted the truthfulness of the senior NCO.
“Surely [the senior master sergeant] would not have forgotten over 175 phone calls that Col. McMahon had made to her over approximately 18 months,” the report stated, “and her response indicated a purposeful avoidance of the issue and a consciousness of guilt.”

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