In May, Lt. Col Jon-Paul Depreo was released from his position as Commander of the 46 Engineer Battalion at Fort Polk while under investigation for groping a fellow soldier.
Depreo was initially charged with one count of abusive sexual contact, one count of maltreatment of a subordinate and two counts of conduct unbecoming of an officer, according to Stars and Stripes.
Depreo pled guilty to one count of assault consummated by battery and one count of conduct unbecoming an officer on June 26, according to U.S. Army documents. He was sentenced to a term of two months in prison.
Depreo’s sentencing marks the end of several cases pending for Fort Polk soldiers. Jeremy Compton, former Command Major Sergeant, was sentenced on June 20, 2023, to 20 months in prison after entering a guilty plea to charges of distribution of child pornography, adultery and sharing explicit photographs of himself in uniform.
The frequency of cases centering around sexual assault within the Army has lead commanders to urge policy reform and greater protections within the service.
In 2022, the Army revised sexual assault policies to improve victim outreach.
Army Directive 2022-10, Safe to Report for Victims of Sexual Assault, established reporting protections.
In addition to providing avenues in which soldiers can report, the directive protects reporting soldiers from punitive actions in some circumstances when they were consuming alcohol, engaged in an unprofessional relationship or in violation of curfew at the time of the assault.
In November of 2022, Army Directive 2022-13 was signed into effect. The directive allows the first colonel in units where reports have been lodged to issue military protective orders for the complainant. Investigators from within the team are barred from the investigation of complaints.
Army command has been focused on broad training and awareness campaigns with a SHARP-related focus throughout 2022-2023, including the ‘Amazing Race’ for SHARP awareness at Fort Leavenworth on June 23.
According to The Associated Press, reducing the number of sexual assaults through all branches has been prioritized on a government level. Nate Galbreath, acting director of the Pentagon’s sexual assault prevention and response office, said the department is using a budget infusion of $479 million this year to hire as many as 2,400 personnel for a new “prevention workforce.”
He said about 350 have already been hired and as the number grows they will be placed in military installations around the world to help commanders address some of the risk factors that lead to sexual assault.