Who urinated in her boots? A mystery at a California military base led to claims of a cover-up
For Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pineda, a 15-year veteran of the California Air National Guard, the military was a family calling. She followed her older sister and brother-in-law into the guard, where she now holds an administrative position at the elite 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno.
On a March morning four years ago, Pineda was about to dress into a uniform she had stored overnight in a stall in the women’s bathroom when she made a foul discovery.
Someone had urinated in her boots.
The incident left Pineda humiliated and frightened and would trigger a series of behind-the-scenes investigations whose scope has come to extend beyond what happened that day at the Fresno base.
The defiling of Pineda’s boots has led to allegations that high-ranking officers tried to bury the incident, including by destroying evidence that could have potentially identified a suspect through DNA, and retaliated against a male pilot who supported her efforts to find the perpetrator, according to interviews and guard records obtained by The Times. Some in the wing have begun calling the ongoing saga “Pissgate.”
After The Times began asking questions about the Pineda episode, the California Military Department, which oversees the guard, asked the U.S. Air Force Inspector General’s Office to conduct an investigation.
In the backdrop of the #MeToo movement, guard leaders are concerned about the degrading nature of the act aimed at a woman, according to two sources close to the investigation, who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly speak about the matter. Only about 20% of the officers and enlisted members in the guard are women.
The inspector general’s inquiry is the third investigation into the Pineda affair and part of a broader probe into whether whistle-blowers at the 144th wing suffered reprisals for questioning the actions or conduct of their superiors on a range of matters. …read more
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