Details from the investigation by the commander of U.S. Southern Command, Air Force General Douglas Fraser, involving the inappropriate actions of U.S. service members in Cartagena, Colombia in April, have been released.
It was revealed that 12 U.S. service members who were sent to Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit engaged in relationships with prostitutes in their hotel rooms.
U.S. Southern Command began the investigation into the allegations shortly after receiving them and dispatched an investigation team to Cartegena within 24 hours of the case being opened. The U.S. Embassy had been notified by hotel workers in Cartagena that a number of service members staying in the hotel kept their female companions in their rooms past 6 a.m. which is against hotel policy. The complaint and report also stated handlers allowed bomb detection dogs to not only sleep on the beds, but soil the linens and use various sections of the hotel as bathrooms. Other misconduct included propositioning the hotel’s female greeters and drinking alcohol in the pool.
While prostitution is legal in Colombia, U.S. service members are prohibited from hiring them under the Uniform Code of Military Conduct.
On May 4, the Secretary of Defense designated General Fraser as the sole authority to make the initial decision on appropriate actions in these cases.
In the end, it was determined that while service members from four branches of the U.S. military engaged in questionable activities, those actions did not compromise national security, stating, “No sensitive items were stored or permitted in the individual military members’ hotel rooms.”
Of the 12 service members involved, nine have been served with Non-Judicial Punishment (NJP), two cases remain under legal review and one was reprimanded, but cleared of any violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Of the nine served with NJP, three have exercised their right to request a court martial.