As a member of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Air Force Staff Sgt. David Owsianka provides forensic photographs while on investigation and recovery missions, and assists with documenting disinterments, interments and autopsies.

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Phillip A. Stewart

Air Force[1] Secretary Frank Kendall has denied a request from a two-star general accused of sexual assault and other crimes to retire instead of facing a court-martial[2], according to the general's attorneys.

The secretary's decision means Maj. Gen. Phillip Stewart, only the second Air Force general in history to be charged with a sexual crime, is set to be tried by court-martial in June after being relieved of command of the 19th Air Force at Joint Base San Antonio[3], Texas, last year.

Stewart is charged with allegedly committing a sex act on a woman without her consent near Altus Air Force Base[4] in Oklahoma in April 2023, according to a military charge sheet. He is also charged with conduct unbecoming an officer for allegedly asking someone to "spend the night alone with him in his private hotel room" near Denver, Colorado, while on official travel in March 2023. The charges include extramarital sexual conduct.

Read Next: 101st Airborne Soldier Murdered in Off-Base Residence Near Fort Campbell in Kentucky[5]

"We are looking forward to our day in court," Stewart's lead attorney, Sherilyn Bunn, told Military.com in a statement. Spokespeople for Kendall and the Department of the Air Force did not provide comment.

Stewart submitted the retirement in lieu of a court-martial request in January. Jeffrey Addicott, a member of Stewart's legal team, a professor of law and director of the Warrior Defense Project at St. Mary's University School of Law, told Military.com that Kendall denied the major general's request. A person familiar with the legal proceedings said it was denied on Feb. 20.

Stewart pleaded not guilty to the charges in March[6], and his case is scheduled to go to trial June 17.

Military.com asked Kendall on Feb. 13 at an Air and Space Forces Association conference in Colorado whether he planned on approving or denying Stewart's request. He declined to answer, but said Stewart's case -- despite its historic nature -- did not indicate larger problems in the officer corps.

"I don't think it's representative of a larger issue," Kendall said in response to Military.com[7] during a media roundtable. "Gen. Stewart has not been convicted yet, so I don't want to say anything about his guilt or innocence. We take these cases incredibly seriously."

On May 9, 2023, Air Education and Training Command announced that Stewart had been removed from his role as commander of the 19th Air Force, which is responsible for training 30,000 students annually and is part of AETC. The command cited "a loss of confidence in his ability to lead, related to alleged misconduct, which is currently under investigation."

It was later revealed in a redacted charge sheet provided to Military.com[8] that Stewart was facing a dereliction of duty charge, in which it was alleged that he failed to stop "pursuing an unprofessional relationship." It also states he allegedly "failed to refrain from assuming control of an aircraft after consuming alcohol within 12 hours prior to takeoff."

Addicott told Military.com last year[9] that the judge for the military Article 32 hearing, a process similar to a grand jury for civilians, recommended that the sexual assault charges be dropped and the other charges should not go to trial, but the Air Education and Training Command leader still referred Stewart to a court-martial.

Stewart's case marks the second time an Air Force general has been charged with a sexual crime. The first was in 2022, when then-Maj. Gen. William Cooley -- who had headed the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base[10] in Dayton, Ohio -- was convicted during a court-martial of abusive sexual contact[11].

Cooley was ordered to forfeit $10,910 of pay[12] for five months and received a letter of reprimand. He had faced a maximum of seven years of confinement, separation, and loss of pay and benefits.

Related: Air Force General Convicted in Historic Court-Martial Avoids Jail Time[13]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[14].

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Sen. Tammy Duckworth arrives for a meeting with Ukraine's President Zelenskyy

Two and a half years ago, Congress passed a law guaranteeing National Guardsmen[1] and reservists would get the same amount of incentive pay[2] for special skills as their active-duty counterparts.

But the Pentagon still has not implemented that law, and one of the key senators who advocated for the change says her patience is running out.

In an interview this week with Military.com, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., suggested that the Pentagon has until the Senate Armed Services Committee debates its annual defense policy bill next month to show her some progress, or else she'll move to force the Defense Department's hand.

Read Next: 101st Airborne Soldier Murdered in Off-Base Residence Near Fort Campbell n Kentucky[3]

"I am absolutely fed up," said Duckworth, a retired Army[4] National Guard lieutenant colonel. "I know when I'm being slow-rolled, and I'm being slow-rolled on this because active duty doesn't want to provide the same benefits to our Guard and reserve troops."

Duckworth would not elaborate on specific ways she is considering to force the Pentagon to follow the law. But lawmakers have a number of levers they can pull to increase pressure on the department to act. For example, Congress will often insert language in the annual defense bill to withhold a small amount of funding from the Pentagon until it corrects its delinquency.

At issue is a provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, that Congress passed and the president signed into law in December 2021.

The provision required the Pentagon to "pay a member of the reserve component of an armed force incentive pay in the same monthly amount as that paid to a member in the regular component of such armed force performing comparable work requiring comparable skills."

The bonuses can add hundreds of dollars a month to a service member's paycheck and often are given when troops must get specialized training or perform duties that put them at greater risk.

The difference between pay for reserve forces and active-duty forces can be stark. For example, both active-duty and reserve paratroopers are required to keep up their skills with at least one jump every three months, but reservists get only $5 per month compared to $150 for active-duty members.

Duckworth said she's heard from National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Daniel Hokanson that the disparity is a top concern for Guardsmen deciding whether to stay in uniform.

"Frankly, they are short-changing our reserve forces, and you're going to lose people out of the reserve," she said.

Before increasing the pay, the NDAA required the Pentagon to submit a report to Congress detailing its implementation plan and certifying that increasing the incentive pay for reserve components would not negatively affect force structure.

That report was delivered to Congress, albeit six months late[5]. In the report, the Pentagon raised concerns that some active-duty service members could leave for the reserves if incentive pay were increased and that the law as written would require the DoD to offer new incentive payments to the reserves that are needed only for active-duty service members.

Boosting incentive pay for reserve components could cost $546 million annually and affect about 84,601 Guardsmen and reservists, according to the report. Some active-duty members could also get increased bonuses under the law, the report said, adding another $57.7 million to the cost.

"The department continues to believe that prorating monthly [special and incentive] pays is an appropriate and equitable manner for compensating service members performing full and part-time duty," according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by Military.com. "Paying these additional amounts would provide a benefit to more members but would result in a significant additional cost."

The report interpreted the law more broadly than Congress intended by factoring in some wide-ranging recruiting[6] and retention bonuses. So, in last year's NDAA, Congress tweaked the requirement to more specifically target incentive pay for special skills and training.

For Duckworth, the change in last year's NDAA means there's no more reason for the Pentagon to delay. But the department is now conducting another study on the effects of increasing incentive pay for reserve forces, a department official told senators at a hearing this month.

While the last study focused on whether the structure of the active duty would be hurt by increasing pay for reserve components, the new study is looking at how boosting pay will affect recruiting and retention for the Guard and reserves, said Ashish Vazirani, acting under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

"I promise you we're not slow-rolling," Vazirani said at the hearing. "We're really trying to be deliberate. It's a complex issue. We want to do it in a deliberate and thorough manner. There are a number of different pays that can be affected, and we want to be sure that we're doing this in a correct way."

That answer infuriated Duckworth.

"If a guy's jumping out of an aircraft three times in one weekend but only gets one-thirtieth of the pay as another person who jumps out of that same aircraft three times the same weekend, there's no study needed," she said in her interview with Military.com. "I understand that in some cases there may be more complex situations that have to do with retention pay and how you calculate it, but when it comes to something like jump pay or flight pay, they can move on that now."

At the very least, Duckworth is demanding the Pentagon provide a concrete timeline for finishing the latest study. Her deadline for getting that answer is the second week of June, when the Senate Armed Services Committee considers this year's NDAA.

"I'm going to be their worst nightmare on this," she vowed. "It's entirely unacceptable, and our service members deserve better, and I'm going to keep pushing until every reservist receives the pay they have earned and deserve."

"I'm giving them an opportunity to respond" with a timeline for the new study, she added. "But certainly for me, everything is on the table. And if I have to throw some sharp elbows come this NDAA, then I will."

Related: 'Lack of Respect': Army National Guard Criticized by Lawmakers for Bungling Enlistment Bonus Payments[7]

© Copyright 2024 Military.com. All rights reserved. This article may not be republished, rebroadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without written permission. To reprint or license this article or any content from Military.com, please submit your request here[8].

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