By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Wednesday will release the results of its internal investigation into a scandal involving 11 military training instructors charged with sexual offenses against recruits at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas.
The 11 instructors - sergeants whose job is to mold recruits into airmen and women during a grueling 8-1/2 week basic training program - have been charged with offenses ranging from inappropriately touching female recruits to sexual assault.
Five instructors have been convicted or pleaded guilty at courts-martial and have been sentenced to terms ranging from 30 days to 20 years in prison. The others are in various stages of the military legal process.
The Air Force has said 48 women have come forward with what investigators consider credible stories of sexual misconduct.
"The 38 members of the investigation team conducted hundreds of interviews and contacted 18,000 individuals," said Brent Boller, a spokesman for Joint Base San Antonio, which includes Lackland Air Force Base.
Lackland is the home of all Air Force basic military training, and trains about 35,000 recruits each year.
The results will be announced by Major General Margaret Woodward, who was named by Air Education and Training Commander General Edward Rice to conduct the probe.
U.S. Representative Jackie Speier, a Democrat who is on the House Armed Services Committee, said she has little faith the military will be able to police itself.
"I want to be pleasantly surprised by the report, but I am not holding my breath," Speier, a strong critic of the Air Force's handling of the scandal, told Reuters on Tuesday.
In response to the Lackland scandal and other reports of sexual misconduct in the military, Speier has introduced a bill that would strip the Pentagon of the authority to investigate claims of sexual offenses among military members and refer them to an independent agency.
(Editing by David Bailey and Mohammad Zargham)