The Air Force named Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward as the new director of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office on Friday. This news comes as the Pentagon continues to try to handle the alarming rate of assaults on service members and claims of mishandling in those cases.
According to ThinkProgress, a two-star general, Woodward has a much higher rank than the last director, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Krusinki, who was himself charged with sexual battery last month. A woman in Arlington, Va., accused Krusinki of groping her in a strip club parking lot.
Serving in the Air Force since 1983, she was named commander of the 89th Airlift Wing in 2007, where she took responsibility over Air Force One. Woodward ran the 2011 U.S. air campaign over Libya as part of a NATO intervention to oust dictator Moamar Qaddafi.
Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee called Woodward a "breath of fresh air." She will reorganize the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, while reporting to vice chief of the Air Force.
A Pentagon report this year estimated that as many as 26,000 military members were sexually assaulted in 2012. Earlier this year a general overturned a sexual assault conviction, and since then, the Senate Armed Services Committee had the first hearing on assault in ten years.
McKeon said Woodward can stand up to the challenge. "I welcome her voice to this fight," he said.
The House Armed Services Committee plans to reform the Uniform Military Code of Justice in handling assault cases. Next week the House will vote on a defense policy that would stop military commanders from overturning rape and assault convictions and require that anyone convicted on such a crime be held responsible. The legislation would require anyone in uniform found guilty of a sex-related crime be punished with, at a minimum, a dismissal from military service or a dishonorable discharge.
In March, it was reported that an Air Force general overturned the rape conviction of Lt. Col. James Wilkerson. Wilkerson was convicted by a jury of four service members, but Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin cited his “convening authority” to single-handedly throw out the verdict because he claimed there was not “enough evidence.”