In the mid-1990s, U.S. Army Major Gen. Robert D. Shadley learned that male drill sergeants and other instructors at the Aberdeen Proving Ground were abusing their power and sexually abusing new recruits.
A two-year effort by Shadley and a team of investigators uncovered the perpetrators, but it was only part of a larger issue in the United States military. To this day, between 18,000 and 19,000 soldiers are victims of abuse every year.
Shadley, who retired from the military in 2000 and now makes his home in Wayzata, has traced the investigation and the impact at large of abuse in the military in his new book, "The GAMe: Unraveling a Military Sex Scandal." He will talk about the book and sign copies Saturday at The Bookcase of Wayzata.
"After I retired in 2000, I continued to monitor the media activity on how the military prevented sexual assault in the work place. I have not seen any great progress being made," Shadley said.
Shadley spent 33 years in the U.S. Army, entering as an ROTC graduate in 1967. He served tours in Vietnam and Operation Desert Storm/Shield. After retiring from active duty, he moved to Minnesota to work for a local firm and then became an independent consultant.
Shadley's base was a spot for new soldiers to get further training following basic training. At the ordinance center, there were 25,000 soldiers being trained in dozens of skills, from welding to truck mechanics to explosives disposal.
"The first leader in the chain of command in the school is the drill sergeant. Young soldiers in basic are trained to use their chain of command. If the first person in the chain of command is rotten, what is a young female soldier to do?" Shadley said.
The investigation set out to determine who had been abused and get them the counseling and help that they needed. They also worked to uncover the perpetrators. They discovered a network on the base playing the "GAM," or the "Game ala Military." In the end, the court martialed 12 drill sergeants for their actions.
"They did not use a knife at the throat of these young women, but their position of power," Shadley said.
"It was like pulling a ravel on a sweater. After four or five months, I called my higher headquarters and let them know I needed outside help. It became apparent that Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland was not the only place with this problem," Shadley said.
The investigation went nationwide and drew considerable attention at the time. Over the intervening 15 years, however, Shadley has not seen improvement. The numbers of soldiers being abused are consistent from year to year.
"There were a few really bad actors. It should not be all that difficult to sort out the less than one percent in our military who are doing this insidious action," Shadley said. "They are not attacking the root problem, which is to identify these people who are causing the problem and get them out of the Army."
Shadley has continued to work with the military. "I spent 2004 to 2010 working with units deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq. I talked about effective leadership. If you see someone doing something wrong, you have to call them out on it," he said.
These issues aren't confined to the military. "You see the same thing in the Catholic Church, or at Penn State where the university was more interested in making the problem go away than taking action against a sexual predator. The bottom line in all of this is that all it takes is one or two people to have the whole organization cast in a bad, bad light," Shadley said.
All of this was key in Shadley's decision to write a book, and why it is of interest to people beyond the military.
"It's not about selling books, but it is about getting the story out. You have to stop this behavior and make the workplace safe for all. Prevention of a sexual assault is a way to make the workplace safer. The same person who is worried about preventing their employees from being hurt or being attacked in a garage or injured by an I.E.D. are the same people who should be concerned about protecting these folks," Shadley said.