By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Air Force officer charged in a sex assault case this week had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, received five non-combat medals and passed a review of his military records before he was selected to head a sexual assault prevention and response branch.
A records review is part of the selection process and no red flags were raised that would have prevented Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Krusinski, a personnel officer, from being selected to that post, an Air Force spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
He was selected for the position through the vetting process of the Air Force directorate of manpower, personnel and services after leadership looked at the top candidates and chose him because of his past performance and command experience, Air Force spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Laurel Tingley said.
Krusinski, 41, was arrested on Sunday and charged with sexual battery for allegedly grabbing a woman's breasts and buttocks in a parking lot near the Pentagon.
He is scheduled for a court appearance in Virginia on Thursday when he can enter a plea.
His arrest was a huge embarrassment for the military in a week when the Pentagon released a report showing sexual assaults have jumped and when top generals were testifying at budget hearings to make a case for funding.
"I'm just fed up with this sexual assault stuff. I am volcanic about this sexual assault stuff," Senator Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat, said at a hearing. "I'm tired of hearing 'Boys will be boys, oh it's an isolated incident.'"
Krusinski was removed from the sexual assault prevention post that he held since February and will be assigned to another position that had not yet been determined, Tingley said.
Krusinski had received five medals in almost two decades with the Air Force, including the Defense Meritorious Service Medal which is awarded for non-combat achievement in joint activities that is "incontestably exceptional."
He was deployed as a training director with a NATO mission in Afghanistan and as deputy commander of an expeditionary mission support group in Iraq.
Krusinski was based at several military bases around the United States since joining the Air Force in 1994 including MacDill in Florida, Wright-Patterson in Ohio and Vandenberg in California.
From February 2001 to August 2002, he was chief of personnel at the Air Force Intelligence Analysis Agency at the Pentagon, according to biographical information released by the Air Force.
His case fueled anger from lawmakers.
"We keep hearing of incident after incident. And we don't seem to be making the progress that we need to make," Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, said at the same hearing on the Air Force budget.
"Ultimately, this is going to affect recruitment. If I were a parent with a daughter who is thinking of going into the military today, I would think twice about whether the environment is safe for her, not from the enemy, but from sexual assault from her fellow military members," she said.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)