Staff Sgt. Annamarie Ellis arrives for her trial on charges of maltraining and maltreating basic trainees. (Jerry Lara/San Antonio Express-News)
A former military training instructor pleaded guilty Monday to charges she abused recruits under her command and threatened one of them with violence. She faces up to 44½ years in prison when her trial resumes Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. Annamarie Ellis, now assigned to the 559th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, entered a guilty plea on three charges and 24 specifications of maltreating recruits, according to the San Antonio Express-News.
Ellis formerly was an instructor for Lackland’s 323rd Training Squadron. The incidents occurred over a roughly 22-month period starting in 2009.
According to a charge sheet, Ellis was accused of impeding an investigation when she allegedly told trainees to lie about how a recruit, identified as victim 3, got a black eye sometime between August and October 2009. The document does not say how the recruit received the black eye.
Ellis was also charged with telling trainees in late 2009 and early 2010 not to discuss what happened in her flight with anyone outside it, according to the charge sheet. In spring 2010, she instructed recruits “not to tell leadership about her unauthorized training methods,” it said, although it does not say what those methods were.
Ellis was also accused of improperly handling letters and postcards that were addressed to trainees.
The San Antonio paper reported that the judge, Col. Donald Eller Jr., dismissed one specification alleging she was derelict in her duties by maltreating a recruit identified as “John Doe.” According to her charge sheet, Ellis threatened to cut off the testicles of “John Doe.”
Ellis opted for a judge-only sentencing.
“Is this a free and voluntary act on your part?” Eller asked, after reviewing a form she signed authorizing him to decide her fate.
“Yes, sir,” Ellis replied.
All of the alleged offenses occurred at least a year before a scandal of trainer misconduct emerged at Lackland in summer 2011.
So far, 35 basic training instructors have been investigated for misconduct with 69 recruits and technical school students, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Twenty-six instructors have been convicted of misconduct, while one was acquitted. One other case was thrown out and is on appeal.
Since then, the Air Force has made dozens of changes to basic training, including stricter oversight for instructors.