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SAN ANTONIO -- The day starts at 4:45 a.m. with physical training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, where every new airman reports for eight and a half weeks of basic training.

Never before have the basics here demanded more scrutiny, in the wake of a sex scandal that rocked the foundation of this base and the culture of the Air Force nationwide.

Certainly I think our nation lost confidence in what we were doing here at Basic Military Training, said Col. Mark Camerer, commander of the 37th Training Wing.

Camerer is responsible for the training of roughly 70,000 recruits and technical training students annually. He arrived at Lackland in September, tasked to bring about the return here of Air Force core values of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.

I see this as just a breakdown in discipline, in that we didn't self-police each other. Some individuals really put their personal needs, their personal desires and wants, and they put that above being a [non-commissioned officer] and our Air Force, Camerer said.

All told, 17 basic training instructors at Lackland have been convicted of misconduct with 63 recruits and technical training students during a 2-year stretch starting in 2009. The offenses range from unprofessional relationships to rape.

It was hard for me to believe given the responsibilities we're charged with, said Tech. Sgt. Luis Mercado, who has worked as a basic training instructor for the last three years of his 15-year career in the Air Force.

The position demands near around-the-clock interaction with recruits. Only about 20 percent of those recruits are women.

I feel more comfortable here than at some friends' homes sometimes, said Meghan Griswold, a 21-year-old trainee from Standish, Maine.

Griswold grew up in a military family. Her father served in the Army. Her stepfather and grandfather served in the Air Force.

At no point in my time here have I felt uncomfortable or wanted to stop or take back my choice of joining, she said.

KENS 5 talked to three female recruits during a recent visit to Lackland. Each one was just as upbeat as the other about the Air Force and the changes implemented in the wake of the sex scandal.

My recruiter told me a little bit about it, and I was a little shocked, but I knew the Air Force was going to take care of it, said Melissa Ruppert, a 24-year-old trainee from Mallard, Iowa, who wants to pursue an Air Force career as a military investigator.

It has been nine months since Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward completed a sweeping investigation and recommended 46 items for action. The improvements include hotline phones in living quarters, additional surveillance cameras in living spaces and the expansion of the so-called wingman policy.

We're not allowed to go anywhere without another person, another female with us, Ruppert said.

But the most critical changes might be the least visible. Investigators determined basic training is highly vulnerable to abuse of power, and needed to be remedied by adding leadership to ensure less one-on-one interaction with recruits.

Additionally, the duty day for an instructor, which used to be as long as 16 hours for weeks on end, was cut in half. At the same time, the Air Force increased the number of females serving as basic training instructors.

No one is here to get anyone, said Sgt. Renee Cenov, who has been an instructor for roughly the last year. That's something that's probably a bad rumor. We're here to mentor them and create them into a great Airman, and that's what we're here for.

Despite that pronouncement, the highest levels of the US military acknowledge that the military at-large underscores a disturbing pattern of sexual assaults. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel implemented immediate measured to combat sexual assaults among US troops.

A new pentagon report estimates that sexual assaults among troops jumped 35 percent in the last two years, from 19,300 in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012.

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