Abuse of Civil Air Patrol Cadets Covered Up in Tennessee Wing

James Rushing
Col James Rushing and Lt Col Marcus Taylor

By Anon | AuxBeacon News Contributor

[Editor’s Note: We received this in our inbox among others. Thank you for your contribution. Col James Rushing, the National FEMA Liaison officer has a long, documented history of covering up cadet child abuse. No disciplinary action has ever been taken against him.]

“Lacing in” a stretcher victim for transport over rough terrain or for mountain rescue is standard procedure for such rescues. However, if that were the purpose then this image shows it clearly NOT done correctly. I also don’t understand the tape over the mouth. Was this image from a badly done rescue class or “hazing” which would be completely against regulations (and possibly a state’s laws depending on the location). At this point, I would say it completely justifies an internal IG inspection (which many would doubt the findings of given recent history) AND a USAF investigation.

As we’ve mentioned, the Civil Air Patrol has a cadet program for children between the ages of 12 and 18. A cadet has the choice to remain a cadet until age 21 in a flight officer grade if the cadet so chooses, as long as the cadet is not married or enlists in the regular military services prior to attaining the age of 21.

Although it is a “quasi-military” cadet program, the cadets are, in fact, children. As such, they are protected by the child abuse laws of the individual sates, and by the CAP’s own Cadet Protection Policy.

The photo of a Tennessee Wing cadet was posted on the Internet, but after I sent a copy of it to CAP’s National Headquarters seeking comment, the photo mysteriously disappeared from the site at: http://community.webshots.com/slideshow?ID=248530257&key=lqPyqn#.

Several complaints of child abuse within the Tennessee Wing have been sent to Col Rushing, who has apparently done nothing about them.

In one case, a cadet sent a written complaint to Rushing about some of the things happening in the Tullahoma Composite Squadron. In that case, a cadet who had risen to the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel made only one mistake: he thought due to his training that something might actually be done with his formal complaint.

His original complaint regarded verbal abuse and public embarrassment of the unit’s cadets by two CAP officers, “Lt Gemma and Maj Sander.”

This is what causes the greatest cadet loss and those on the verge of quitting. I, myself, have contemplated leaving the program because of the verbal abuse.

That first complaint was written on December 6, 2004. But because nothing was done, the same cadet followed up with another written complaint dated July 31, 2005:

I should have reported something earlier and didn’t because I was concerned over Maj Sander and his position with the Air Force. I had ridden with Maj Sander to the Tennessee Wing Conference, November 7-8, 2004, and when we got back to the squadron building, Maj Sander was making fun of me, and I opened up the back door on the van and it touched Maj Sander. He grabbed the door, opened it up fully and open-handedly smacked me across the cheek.

After this, Maj Sander took me home and I had taken some of my stuff into the house and when I came back out, the rest of my stuff was thrown into a muddy ditch. My mother considered filing charges against him, but she was concerned that he might lose his job on the Air Force base.

Maj Sander and Lt Gemma seem to single out cadets that they don’t like and somehow make them quit. The [squadron’s] membership has decreased by half (22 to 8 cadets) in the last three years under the direction of Maj Sander and Lt Gemma. This should not be happening because these cadets were really fired up about being Civil Air Patrol members.

Currently, Maj Sander is residing in Lt Gemma’s house with her and her two children. I was there when they were eating dinner and Lt Gemma very lovingly brought Maj Sander his dinner and she straddled his legs to put a pillow on his lap and then put his plate on the pillow. I was able to be there for that because Maj Sander does not know that I have reported any of the abuse issues at this time. I am concerned about the problems that will arise if he finds out that I am telling the truth to anyone in higher authority.

Today, while the Tullahoma Composite Squadron was performing a search and rescue mission, Maj Sander received a phone call from Lt Col Melinda Lord. I heard Maj Sander’s end of the conversation. After Maj Sander ended the phone call with Lt Col Lord, I asked him what that was about. He proceeded to state that it had been verified that Capt Dalton called Maj Patterson to try to stir up issues about the abuse going on in the Tullahoma Squadron. Maj Sander stated that he would take care of the issue and that Capt Dalton could not file an abuse claim six months after the fact, and he felt confident nothing would come of it.

Maj Sander has not been an ethical adult to mentor children. He was cheating on his wife (he told me this about six times) and he was encouraging me to cheat on my girlfriend because, he said, “Women are to be used, abused, and then leave them.”

Maj Sander has been seen being overly-friendly with the older female cadets, Airman [name deleted] is one of them. My brother witnessed an encounter between Maj Sander and Airman [name deleted] and asked my mother if Airman [name deleted] was Maj Sander’s girlfriend. My mother told my brother that Maj Sander was married and Airman [name deleted] could not be his girlfriend, although she really thought that there was a relationship between the two of them.

I’m concerned about the cadets I will leave behind under the constant harassment of Lt Gemma. Maj Sander won’t be a problem anymore for the Tullahoma Squadron because he should be gone in about a week since the Air Force has transferred him to Offutt Air Force Base.

Sources in the Wing tell me that nothing was done about this report. And, Maj Sander went on to Offutt, apparently to become a problem for the Nebraska Wing. I could find no evidence that Col Rushing, the Tennessee Commander, ever warned Nebraska Wing that they might have a problem coming their way.

In defense of the Civil Air Patrol, I note that the organization has a very stringent cadet protection policy. However, CAP Regulation 52-10, CAP Cadet Protection Policy, shows no requirement for abuse of CAP cadets to be reported to state child abuse authorities, although such reporting is required in almost every state, and almost every state has a toll-free abuse-reporting hotline. The regulation requires such reports to CAP authorities only and CAP officers we’ve spoken to say they feel that if they go outside the regulation and make a report to state authorities, they’ll be “drummed out of the corps.” The regulation is designed to keep all such reports “in-house.”

“If a tree falls in the forest…..,” one source told me. “The CAP keeps these reports to themselves, and releases no information about them. If nobody knows about it — and nobody can find out about it — it didn’t happen.”

In one report, which was also filed with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, one Tennessee CAP member told me:

I have filed two inspector general complaints in accordance with the regulations concerning verbal, physical and emotional abuse/sexual abuse of a cadet 15 years of age. As explained to me by Lynn Dalton, the mother of the cadet/child victim, Col Bill Lord was identified as the CAP member who struck a cadet. The reason, explained to me by the cadet’s mother, that Col Lord gave for striking the cadet was that as they were getting ready to return home from an encampment at the Catoosa, GA, military training site, the male cadets were “horsing around” near a small flight of stairs. Lord stated he was afraid that one of the cadets would fall down the stairs, so he struck Cadet Dalton to get the kids’ attention, since Dalton was the closest one to him, to get them to stop before anyone got hurt. The blow was hard enough to knock the cadet down and left a small knot on his head.

The child/victim immediately reported the incident to encampment officials in Catoosa, GA, but it was not reported to Georgia DHS by the encampment officials. On the way home, CAP Major Sander (a/k/a Tech Sgt William Sander, USAF) and CAP Lt Kathy Gemma verbally interrogated the child/victim and made him feel as if he deserved to be hit in the head. The child was in tears when he arrived home.

The child’s mother, CAP Capt Lynn Dalton, immediately called the Tennessee Wing Commander, Col Rushing, to voice her outrage and concern that Col Lord would have struck her son for any reason.

As a result of that call, Col Rushing, Col Bill Lord (the alleged perpetrator) and Lt Col Melinda Lord met with Capt Dalton in person. The meeting was apparently to keep Capt Dalton from making a formal complaint about the incident.

I reported the incident to the Tennessee child abuse authorities. They told me that since the incident occurred in Georgia, they would forward the information to the Georgia authorities. However, since the alleged perpetrator and the victim were now both back in Tennessee, they said, they doubted the Georgia authorities would investigate.

I contacted Ms. LeAnn Brabfon, a child protective investigator supervisor with Knox County (TN) Child Protective Services. She knew nothing about the incident, she said, and asked, “Why would we investigate abuse of military cadets?” When I explained that these particular cadets were children, her reply was, “Oh…” When asked if Tennessee had ever investigated abuse of CAP cadets, she said, “Well, we wouldn’t be able to tell you because of confidentiality laws.” Of course, those laws apply only to release of names of alleged victims and do not prevent them from confirming that an investigation is or was being conducted.

But my source told us, “I made the mandated report and turned over all my material to the Tennessee Child Protective Services.”

The source continued: The second complaint I filed concerned the sexual abuse of a cadet — the same child/victim that was struck in the back of the head. This incident occurred as Lt Kathy Gemma would hug the cadets as they arrived for meetings. As the children would arrive, Lt Gemma hugged the children in such a way that her breasts made physical contact with the childs’ faces.

The mother of the child/victim went directly to Lt Col Tom Perkins, who was in charge of the squadron’s cadet program, and made the report to him as required by CAP Regulation 52-10, “sexual abuse in the form of touching.” After Perkins discussed this with Lt Gemma, she proceeded to show hostility toward the child/victim. She took actions against the child/victim’s mother in order to degrade her character and reputation, ultimately resulting in the mother and the child/victim transferring to another squadron.

In CAP Regulation 52-10, sexual abuse is defined as “sexual molestation, touching, contact, exposure, or other incidents of a sexually-oriented nature.”

Lt Gemma stopped doing this for a while, but reverted back to hugging the children. Lt Gemma says “she hugs the kids because she feels she is the “mother” to these children.”

I sent an email message to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division on January 3, to ask if they had received these complaints and inquiring as to what action they would take. They have not as yet provided me with a reply.

And, I also left several messages at Tennessee Wing headquarters for Col Rushing to return our call. I have yet to hear from him.

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