EXCLUSIVE | fort jackson court-martial

Drill sergeant convicted on sex charges involving recruits at Columbia’s Fort Jackson

Drill sergeant gets 5 years confinement, bad conduct discharge; one victim speaks out

nophillips@thestate.comNovember 17, 2012 

THE STATE

A Fort Jackson drill sergeant on Friday was sentenced to five years in prison and kicked out of the Army after he was convicted of charges involving sexual assault.

Staff Sgt. Louis Corral was convicted of forcible sodomy, abusive sexual contact, assault consummated by a battery, violations of a general regulation, cruelty and maltreatment of subordinates and adultery, according to a statement released by Fort Jackson’s public affairs office. He was sentenced to five years of confinement, reduction in rank to private and a forfeiture of all pay and allowances. He also was given a bad conduct discharge.

Corral was a drill sergeant in the 193rd Infantry Brigade, Fort Jackson officials said. Fort Jackson is the Army’s largest training center and is home to its drill sergeant training school.

His court-martial began Tuesday before a panel of officers and enlisted soldiers at Fort Jackson. The public was not notified of the proceedings, and no official synopsis of the case was provided.

Pat Jones, a Fort Jackson public affairs officer, said Friday afternoon that no one was available in the Staff Judge Advocate’s Office to answer questions about the case but that officials would be available Monday.

However, one of Corral’s accusers spoke to The State newspaper on Friday about the court-martial.

Pfc. Natasha Woodruff, 20, of Defiance, Ohio, said she was one of three female recruits attacked by Corral during her basic training cycle. The State does not normally report the names of victims of sexual assault. But Woodruff said she wants her story told.

Woodruff attended basic training from November 2011 to February 2012. On multiple occasions, Corral made sexually explicit gestures and comments toward her when others were not nearby, said Woodruff, who’s now stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

In January, Woodruff said Corral called her into his office in her company’s barracks and again made sexually explicit comments, including asking her for a sexual favor. When she refused, “He said, ‘Well, if you’re not going to do that, you at least are going to kiss me,’” Woodruff told The State.

Corral pushed her against a wall, kissed her and groped her, Woodruff said. She said she managed to push her drill sergeant away and run back to other recruits.

“You have no idea when you’re in basic training what to do,” she said.

Woodruff said she reported the assault to other drill instructors, who did not take her seriously. Instead, they rallied around their fellow drill sergeant, she said. Rather than following Army protocol in reporting the accusations, other drill sergeants and senior enlisted soldiers tried to persuade Woodruff out of reporting the assault, she said. Part of those attempts at persuasion included harassment, she said.

“The next three days were absolute hell,” Woodruff said. “You have no idea.”

The Army’s training doctrine specifically forbids sexual harassment. Former military officers familiar with Army’s sexual harassment policy said there is a protocol for officers and non-commissioned officers to follow when harassment is reported.

“As you can see by the court-martial, there is zero tolerance for sexual assault, and it carries heavy penalties,” Jones wrote in an email to The State.

Woodruff said about four days after the assault she broke rank during a formation to report the attack to a battalion command sergeant major, who launched an investigation. It was during that investigation that two other recruits in the unit came forward to report attacks by the sergeant, Woodruff said.

Woodruff is serving as a geospatial engineer, meaning she is trained to read and analyze high-tech maps of battlefields. She joined the Army because it’s a family tradition – her father, an uncle and grandfather all served. She hopes to use the G.I. Bill to pay for nursing school.

Her parents, Bill and Brenda Woodruff, also testified during the court-martial. They said they spoke about the attack’s impact on their daughter and how proud they are that she stood up to Corral’s attacks.

“How proud can I be?” Bill Woodruff said. “America is all about making the world better.”

Woodruff said she is worried about facing repercussions from her testimony and her public stance against the attack. But she believes the risk is worth taking if it helps prevent other recruits from sexual assault.

“I don’t want it to happen to anyone else,” she said. “If it means I have to be thrown under the bus by saying, ‘Hey, I was a victim,’ then that’s what will have to happen. No one should have to go through this.”

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.

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