A war-decorated drill instructor faces a possible Army court martial after allegedly assaulting a dozen women in the service over the past three years, including one on a base in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Angel M. Sanchez, a Bronze Star recipient, is accused of raping four female soldiers and inappropriately touching another eight in units as far-reaching as Afghanistan and his military police training battalion in Missouri. He was relieved of his drill-instructor duties after being informed of the charges earlier this month, according to the Washington Post's Dan Lamothe:
In one incident that occurred sometime between Sept. 17 and Jan. 31, Sanchez grabbed a female soldier by her hair and forced her to perform oral sex in a women's bathroom in the barracks at Fort Leonard Wood, military prosecutors allege in the charging documents.
Sanchez allegedly committed several other assaults in that time frame, authorities said, including one in which he placed a female soldier "in fear that she would be kicked out of the U.S. Army if she did not engage in sexual acts" with him, according to charging documents. In that case, he forced her to perform oral sex while in an office he shared with other drill sergeants at Fort Leonard Wood, military officials said.
Sanchez's assaults reportedly date back to his deployment in Afghanistan in 2011-2012. In an aspect of America's Afghanistan and Iraq wars that's gone generally under-reported, women's safety on U.S. bases has long been a concern. Even the largest forward operating bases are spartan, dark, and not heavily monitored at night; getting to latrines and showers from the living quarters often requires a solitary walk through the dark. Posted warnings abound in restrooms and elsewhere about soldiers being vigilant against attacks.
All of which makes these details in the charging document tragic, but somewhat unsurprising:
At one point during that time, authorities said Sanchez raped a female service member in a temporary housing unit that had been set up for women on a base in eastern Afghanistan.
Sanchez also is accused of attempting to spy on one female soldier while she was showering in Afghanistan, and watching another naked female service member while she weighed herself in a closet, prosecutors say. Those incidents allegedly occurred at Outpost Dandar, in Kunar province.
While in Afghanistan, Sanchez also kept up a steady stream of obscene commentary aimed at his female colleagues, military prosecutors said.
"I know you guys are married, but it's okay if you have a deployment buddy," he allegedly told one lower-ranking soldier while raising the prospect of sexual contact.
"If you give me two minutes, it will be the best two minutes of your life," he told another woman, according to the charging documents.
The military has faced growing scrutiny in recent years over its handling of women's assault and harassment allegations—senior officers accused of rape have seen their cases pled down, men in charge of policing assault have allegedly been assaulters themselves, and female accusers have been painted as sluts and grilled on their sexual proclivities.
For his part, Sanchez's lawyer hinted that his defense would involve putting the dozen accusers' own sex lives on trial. "In my opinion, there are a lot of issues with the credibility of the witnesses and the government's case against my client," he told the Post.
[Photo credit: U.S. Army]