The US Air Force Academy is currently battling a lawsuit from the grieving family of an Academy graduate— who claims her suicide was directly tied to their inaction in addressing her sexual assault claims and mental health.
The family of Cailin Foster alleges that Foster was not given adequate due care in the investigation and aftermath of an incident that reportedly drove her to take her own life in November of 2021.
Foster’s Father, Retired USAF Lieutenant Colonel Gary Foster, took the loss of his daughter particularly hard, given that he had worked at the USAFA and fought to create better protocols to prevent such atrocities from taking place.
“I was in charge of rewriting all the policies in the cadet wing,” LTC Foster said. “I also ran dis-enrollment, so I saw the good, I saw the bad, and I saw the really ugly.”
Following the sexual assault scandal in 2003 that prompted a series of sweeping reforms, the USAFA was hoping the troubles of the past would stay in the past.
However, the issues continued, manifesting themselves in different ways.
“It’s just so frustrating when 20 years ago you tried to fix all this stuff and you see the exact same mistakes that they made,” LTC Foster said. “They backslid.”
According to KRDO, an August report from the DOD revealed that an astounding 22 percent of female cadets and 4 percent of males said they were victims of unwanted sexual contact in 2022, hitting “all-time-high” categories.
The Fosters claim their daughter was raped during her freshman year at the Air Force Academy and, despite reporting the incident, nothing was done.
After Foster’s daughter was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, she was assigned to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.
However, LT Foster’s mental anguish reportedly became too much to bear, resulting in her suicide in November 2021.
The family did not learn the details until they began investigating what happened to her at the Academy.
“I have to honor her,” LT Foster’s mother, Colleen Foster, said. “I have to be the voice for other parents, for other moms out there. I could never live to see another family member suffer the way we’ve had to for the last two years.”
The Fosters have filed wrongful death claims against the Air Force, alleging the Academy failed to protect her from sexual assault and didn’t help her with her mental health.
According to LTC Foster, they aren’t resentful towards the Armed Services but want reform.
“I’m still proud of my time at the Air Force Academy, but there’s a dark underside that they continually have to contend with,” LTC Foster said. “A lot of times they forget the seriousness of that underbelly that they need to take care of. In this case, they failed miserably. I just hope that the senior leadership learns from her story and makes those changes because I can spout off a dozen changes that they could implement now.”
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