By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The first woman Air Force training instructor to face a court martial in a scandal involving sex with recruits at a Texas military base has entered a guilty plea, and faces up to a year in prison.
Staff Sergeant Emily Allen admitted to having a sexual relationship with a male technical trainee, attempting to have a sexual relationship with another man, and having or trying to develop social relationships with two female and one male technical trainees.
"She pleaded guilty to having a relationships with all four of the technical school Airmen," Lackland spokesman Brent Boller said.
Technical training is the course immediately after basic training where new Air Force recruits learn the skills needed to enter their military work assignment.
It is a violation of military law for Military Training Instructors to have any kind of personal relationship with trainees under their command.
Allen faces up to one year in prison. The offenses took place in 2011.
More than two dozen Air Force training sergeants have been investigated for engaging in improper sexual activities, from flirting to rape, with both male and female recruits. Some 62 current and former Air Force members have come forward to claim they were victims of abuse while undergoing training at Lackland.
The scandal has prompted some members of Congress to criticize the Pentagon and hold hearings on what they said was a failure of top military leaders to deal with a culture of sexual harassment and abuse.
Allen is the 18th Air Force instructor to face court martial in what has become the largest sex scandal in the U.S. military in nearly 20 years. Seventeen have faced trial at Lackland, which is the home of all Air Force basic training, and the other faced court martial at Keesler Air Force base in Mississippi.
Allen's defense lawyer, Major Willie Babor, argued that it is precisely because the scandal has grown so large that his client has been charged.
"The only reason she's in court is that commanders are being bullied by the Judge Advocate General's office," he said.
Babor said that senior commanders are being pressured to bring charges against as many instructors as possible to show that the Air Force is serious about dealing with the high profile scandal.
"If you don't play ball, they are going to fire you, and for any senior officer, that is a serious repercussion," he said.
He submitted reports indicating that several senior Air Force leaders have been reprimanded for failing to properly report sexual misconduct in basic training.
Allen entered the guilty pleas after the military judge declined to throw out the charges against her.
She is now a military dental school training instructor.
In addition to prison time, she could be handed a bad conduct discharge.
(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Editing by Greg McCune and Bernadette Baum)