Fired Air Force Wing Commander Now Faces Sexual Assault Charges

Col. John O. Howard. Air Force photo
Col. John O. Howard. Air Force photo

A former U.S. Air Force wing commander fired from his post in December has been charged with sexual assault, maltreatment and cruelty, among other offenses.

Col. John Howard, the former 375th Air Mobility Wing commander at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, faces two specifications of cruelty and maltreatment, two specifications of sexual assault, one specification of conduct unbecoming an officer and one specification of fraternization in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 18th Air Force spokesman Capt. Ryan DeCamp told Military.com on Monday. Air Force Times was first to report the charges.

"The charges are accusations and Colonel Howard is presumed innocent until proven guilty," DeCamp said in an email. "To protect the rights of Colonel Howard and the integrity of ongoing legal proceedings, no other information about the case will be released at this time."

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DeCamp said an Article 32 hearing date is still being coordinated between the parties. An Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian courts, determines whether or not charges will be brought to trial.

According to his charge sheet, reviewed by Military.com, the alleged offenses pertain to encounters Howard is accused of having with a senior airman, whose name has been redacted from the document. It is unclear if all the alleged offenses involve the same senior airman or multiple alleged victims.

Between July and September 2016 at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom, Howard allegedly committed cruelty and maltreatment by "rubbing his groin" against the senior airman's torso; saying ,"every time I see you, there it is," alluding to his becoming erect; and saying his penis is "too big" to hide, or words to that effect, the document said.

Howard also said, "you're making me hard," and that he had to be careful because his erection could be visible through his pants, or words to that effect, it said.

Less than a year later while stationed in Bangor, Maine, Howard is alleged to have sexually assaulted a senior airman by penetrating her with his tongue. Howard also allegedly penetrated her mouth with his penis, without her consent.

Howard also allegedly committed conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman between March 2016 and November 2017 by wrongfully and dishonorably engaging in unprofessional conduct with the senior airman, as well as fraternizing with enlisted persons, the charges said.

Howard was relieved of command in December in the midst of an Air Force Office of Special Investigations probe for what officials at the time said were sexual misconduct allegations.

Prior to becoming the 375th commander in July, Howard was the vice commander of the 100th Air Refueling Wing at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, for roughly two years.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @oriana0214.

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