In a story underscoring the Air Force’s continual struggle to develop leaders capable of holding power and authority in their hands without morally unraveling, Command Chief Jose Barraza was prosecuted earlier this year on a rash of allegations including multiple counts of sexual misconduct, disobeying orders, obstructing justice, and making false official statements.
The story is important because of what it illustrates. The Air Force has worked for years to construe the issue of sexual misconduct as a matter of drunken chicanery between “young” airmen engaging in “hookups” falling somewhere in the grey area of the consent spectrum. Efforts have been overwhelmingly weighted toward curbing alcohol consumption, segregating sexes as much as possible, and training everyone to intervene and prevent sexual activity whenever there is a shred of doubt about consent.
The validity of these efforts is debatable.
Increasingly undebatable is that the service is harboring a moral and ethical illness in its senior ranks. The past few years have featured a continuous cascade of scandalous headlines featuring senior officers and enlisted leaders engaging in all manner of low-rent behavior.
Barraza’s case illustrates an increasingly evident effort to get after this illness. Rather than sweep the allegations under the rug, as has happened too many times in the past, the Air Force went after one of its most senior enlisted members.
The result is that Barraza reportedly pled guilty to all charges and was sentenced to reduction in rank to E-4, confinement for 10 months, and a reprimand. This may not be the end of the charges for this former Numbered Air Force Command Chief Master Sergeant, but it’s a good start.
Sexual misconduct doesn’t discriminate by rank. While we’re left to imagine exactly what Barraza did to earn his charges, we’ve seen more than enough professional idiocy at the senior ranks to fill in the blanks. It’s about time prosecutors stopped being lap dogs for generals and started policing them and their cronies.