A new self-published book by a former high-level officer at Fort Riley delves into a touchy subject both in the military and society in general: sexual abuse.
The book, titled “The GAMe: Unraveling a Military Sex Scandal,” details the unraveling of a military power and sex abuse scandal discovered in 1996 at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
It was authored by retired Maj. Gen. Robert Shadley, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division’s support command during the early 1990s.
“Our soldiers unraveled it over time like unraveling a sweater; the more you pull the worse it got,” Shadley said of his experience at Aberdeen.
Between 1995 and 1997, Shadley worked with other members of the Army to uncover an astounding number of cases of sexual assault on trainees ranging in age from 18 to 22. The incidents occurred between July and September 1996.
Aberdeen Proving Ground trained roughly 25,000 students at 11 institutions each year. The information Shadley uncovered took place at just one of those institutions — Edgewood Arsenal.
“Drill sergeants had a contest to see how many female trainees they could sleep with; they called it playing the GAM (game ale military),” Shadley said. “They thought they were really good at figuring out who would sleep with their sergeants instead of going to physical training.”
According to Shadley, once a girl had been acknowledged as willing to sleep with someone in power, her name was passed around the post so other sergeants could take advantage of her willingness to have sex to get out of training.
“Fifty-one percent of the girls (taken advantage of) were previously sexually assaulted as children,” Shadley said. “They needed positive leaders to show the way, teaching them the hard right, not the easy wrong.
“In my mind there is no such thing as consensual sex (between) a married 35-year-old drill sergeant and a 19-year-old trainee,” Shadley said. “It is bad leadership at a minimum.”
Once Shadley brought the situation to the attention of the Army, other instances became apparent in other divisions throughout the military. The Air Force, Navy and Marines all had similar underground sex GAMs going on.
“I read probably 2,000 witness or perpetrator statements at Aberdeen,” he said. “Female leaders told female privates who were complaining about sexual harassment to suck it up because that is what they had to go through,” he said.
Shadley believes having men advocate for the prevention of sexual assault will open doors.
“If women advocate for it, it is only a ‘women’s issue’ but if you have men and women advocating for it, it is no longer only a women’s issue,” Shadley said.
Aberdeen set up a hotline for 30 days before the Army moved it to Washington. He said 850 calls were referred to the criminal investigation office. “Of those, 34 allegations involved those under my command,” Shadley said. “Four percent were under my command, meaning 96 percent were somewhere else.”
According to Shadley from “1997 to 2000 the Army was in self-protection mode, and its position was that Aberdeen was an aberration.” He said the chief of staff didn’t apologize to him until 2004 for the lack of assistance in uncovering the matter.
“In my humble opinion, we never adequately addressed the problem of sexual assault in the military,” Shadley said. Instead, he added, it became a racial issue, spurred by the fact that “10 of the perpetrators were black and the young victims were white.
“We were accused of being racist,” Shadley said. “People said we were only going after black soldiers. Race became more important instead of concern for the victims.”
He said he has mixed feelings on what has gone on since his retirement, but believes that the Army is getting better at the discussion of this issue and issues similar in nature. He does not, however, feel that the Army as a whole is where it should be.
“As a result of watching what is going on since 2002 when I retired, I’m not seeing any real progress being made,” he said, asserting that 18,000 to 19,000 women are still becoming victims of sexual assault every year and only 3,000 are reported.
Shadley believes the issue is not a women’s issue but a force protection issue.
He was stationed at Fort Riley from July 1990 to May 1992. During that time he was deployed for Operation Desert Shield/Storm with the Big Red One. He said he tries to visit the Manhattan and Junction City areas every year.