One of four Fort Bragg soldiers accused of killing their wives last summer committed suicide in jail this weekend, reported CBS News. Master Sgt. William Wright, charged with the first-degree murder of his wife Jennifer, hanged himself Sunday evening, continuing the tragedy begun when four Special Forces soldiers at the base killed their spouses within a six-week period. Early speculation focused on the use of Larium, a common drug prescribed to soldiers to protect against malaria, among three of the men. A 19-member investigative team in November pointed instead to inadequate family support services and inconsistent soldier re-acclimation programs as contributing factors to the incidents.
In the military, the rate of reported domestic violence incidents rose from 18.6 to 25.6 per 1,000 military personnel between 1990 and 1996. Since then, the rate has decreased to 16.5 per 1,000 in 2001, but it still remains much higher than in the civilian population, which has 3.1 incidents of domestic violence per 1,000 people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Christine Hansen, executive director of the Miles Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides services to domestic abuse victims in the military community warned the Journal-Constitution that cases may be on the rise again.
Last year, the US Congress approved Senate Amendment 4447, sponsored by Sens. Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), including $10 million to fund domestic violence programs on military installations in the final version of the Defense Appropriations Bill. The bill, H.R. 5010, became Public Law No. 107-248 on October 23, 2002. Fort Bragg implemented a mandatory spouse separation time of 48 to 72 hours after violence has been reported. In addition, Army officials, working with civilian social service groups and local law enforcement, now share data on domestic violence incidents.
Meanwhile, amidst the Air Force Academy scandal where there have been at least 56 reports of sexual assaults on female cadets, chair of the Armed Services Committee Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) last week wrote Air Force Secretary James Roche, urging the promotion of female leadership at the Academy. “Despite warnings and clear indications that remedial action was needed, these officers failed to take effective action to correct these problems,” the letter stated, according to KMGH-TV. Lieutenant General John Dallager earlier indicated that few women officers would qualify for the positions of superintendents and commandants–typically three-star generals and one-star generals or colonels, respectively, according to the Associated Press. Lieutenant General Leslie Keene is currently the sole female three-star general in the Air Force.