EUGENE, Ore - Is military recruiting in Oregon safe?
Eugene activist Carol Berg-Caldwell is out to change the way the Oregon National Guard holds recruitment meetings. She says the current system in unsafe, especially for women.
The issue came to a head after recruiter Tim Fox of Lebanon was accused of sexual abuse. Four women accused him of sexual abuse. They say he made unwanted sexual advances and exposed himself during their meetings.
Fox was alone with these women when the alleged incidents happened. He now faces a trial.
Berg-Caldwell says her mission is to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. "I didn't start with any strategy," she said about her efforts. "I started with a gut feeling of, 'this is so wrong.'"
Berg-Caldwell remembers the day she saw KVAL's news story about a young mother who said she was sexually abused during a one-on-one meeting with Oregon National Guard recruiter Tim Fox.
"It's just a real black mark on our military and our culture," she said.
Berg-Caldwell took action, writing senators and congressmen. She's asking that the the military require tandem recruiting.
"So that if any young woman or young man were going through the process of the interview to become enlisted in the service, there were be two people there," she said. "One of each sex."
Berg-Caldwell would also like the person being recruited to have the option to bring a friend or family member to the meeting.
KVAL News called the Oregon National Guard to ask what the policy is now. "There's no formal policy as of right now that requires tandem recruiting," said Lieutenant Leslie Reed. "But there is a verbal one."
She said the verbal policy asks a member of each sex to be present during recruiting. If that's not possible, the meetings should happen in public settings, like a coffee shop.
Lieutenant Reed didn't know if that verbal policy was in place before or after the allegations surfaced about Tim Fox, or if an official policy is in the works.
Berg-Caldwell provided KVAL with a letter she got back from the Department of Defense. It said they are taking the issue seriously, but also say in rural areas like Lebanon, there's often not enough staff to have two recruiters.
"This program was found to be impractical," says the letter, written by Deputy Under Secretary William Carr. "Recruiters in rural areas are often in one-person offices and the next nearest recruiter may be hours away."
Berg-Caldwell says they should simply hire more staff, but was told they didn't have enough in the budget. "That's not an excuse," she said.
"I mean I'm hearing that they care about it, but the proof is in the pudding. And I would make that the number one priority. That people who want to serve our country are always protected."
As for Fox?
"He personally will never process another applicant into the Oregon National Guard," said Lieutenant Reed. "Ever."