Former Central Texas military recruiter shares personal sexual assault experience, discusses low enlistment numbers

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 6:50 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Military recruiters are struggling to enlist troops in Central Texas after several reports of sexual assault crimes and murders continue to haunt military bases and Americans’ views on joining the force, according to a former Central Texas recruiter.

Former recruiter, Lakeydra Houston, retired in March after serving in the military for 20 years.

“I said, when I hit 20, if I make it there, I’m going to go,” Houston said.

She was not as concerned about getting killed across seas as much as she feared what would happen to her on U.S. soil.

“I was definitely scared to say anything because the person who was outside the door when it happened, she was like, ‘don’t say anything because you’re going to get kicked out,” Houston said.

Houston was sexually assaulted during her first six months in the air force.

She did not report it for 17 years.

“I didn’t want them to kick me out,” Houston said. “I was like, I’m not saying anything because I’m going to get treated bad.”

She began recruiting for the air force in Central Texas.

“Recruiting changed my life,” Houston said. “It gave me a voice to speak out about certain things, certainly when some of the girls that I did recruit were sexually assaulted. So now it was like, oh my God, I’m having a repeat of what just happened to me.”

Vanessa Guillén, an army soldier at Fort Hood, was allegedly killed in 2020 because she witnessed an incident between two soldiers. Guillén was also sexually harassed. When she reported it to her supervisor, he allegedly did not report it up the chain of command.

“When she was murdered, and Fort Hood covered her story or covered what happened to her, it was hard for me to tell people, ‘hey, join the Air Force, we’re the greatest thing,” she said.

Houston said sexual assault crimes and murders in the military are a big reason people don’t enlist now, but she thinks it could get better eventually.

“I honestly think that the only way we can get these numbers up is that if we actually take care of our people,” she said. “We have to hold the people accountable who are assaulting our members and actually be there for them and help train them properly. That’s what we need. We need leaders, not just managers. We need people to take care of us.”

She hopes that the community will stand up for victims who have been sexually assaulted in the military.

“When you see anything that’s going on, as far as like when you see these news reports about assault or you see military mishandling or injustice, we need people to speak up and stand up and protect us,” she said. “Please protect us.”

Houston did acknowledge that the military offers programs and courses, but she hopes they will focus on them more and become more proactive rather than reactive.

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