My name is former 1st Lieutenant Nicque Robinson-Dela Cruz, known professionally and publicly as Nicque Marina.
These are my accounts of my mistreatment, harassment, abuse and stalking by
I will refer to her throughout this document, until the end, as LB, as I cannot bring myself to keep typing that name out.
I currently suffer from PTSD from what she put me through and seeing her name is a trigger for a panic attack.
Some of these events have dates associated, some are summaries of her general behavior towards me from 2016-2017. After a certain point, I lost my will to keep up much documentation, because my situation became hopeless. There may have been some details missed, so I am doing my best to recall the core memories of this harassment. I have suffered memory loss from my PTSD, not just from that year, but from previous years and the years that would follow. If other agencies or outlets care to hear more, they can reach out to me. So please bear with me, I am doing my best and I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing statement is true and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief
As a cadet and an officer, I had ALWAYS been a high achiever. At the Air Force Academy, I was the president of the Hispanic Heritage Club. I was the Group 1 Academics Officer, helping cadets struggling with grades to get back on track. My best friend and I attended the Air Education and Training Command Summer Leadership Program in 2012 and returned to run the program in 2013. We were regarded as Drill and Ceremonies experts. I was a flight commander for boot camp my senior year and led a flight of new cadets to graduation day. All the while, I acted/directed for the theater club and sang the national anthem for many high-visibility USAFA events
As an officer, I took on a lot of responsibility as a brand-new lieutenant. I organized a wing-wide event for the entire base of 2000 personnel. I also sang the national anthem for many high-profile events. For these accomplishments, I received letters of appreciation from the base commander himself.
For 10 months I went on a special duty called Tops in Blue for Air Force Entertainment. My previous commander had put me up for it, learning that I could sing. I performed as a singer and dancer for my fellow troops around the world. I was also appointed staging director for the tour, in charge of directing set-up of a $2M stage set. While in that role, I cut down the set-up/tear-down time of this massive set by 100%. At the same time, I was also appointed as the Mission Support Flight Commander. I also wrote and edited a formal Rules and Regulations guidance document for the team. 2015 was the most rewarding year of my life, and I was ready to come back to my station of Grand Forks AFB and “kill it” at my job as a contracting specialist. I did not know that 2016-2017 would become the worst year of my life.
When I got back to Grand Forks AFB, I knew a few things about my commander: she hated Tops in Blue, she disliked Air Force Academy graduates, and she was lesbian. The last detail is needed for context, not for discrimination of any kind.
I returned from TIB on January 21, 2016. I went into work on Monday as was directed by my commander. Oddly, she instructed me not to apply to tech school, which I needed to move up to my next certification as a contracting specialist. She placed me under a different program, not related to my skill set, under a civilian work supervisor (whom I will refer to as J) that I would later find out, was her girlfriend, and possibly mistress, as I believe she was married at the time.
She kept offering to go get coffee with me some time. I smiled it off but never followed through. It felt strange and uneasy to me. I wanted to remain completely professional. She would bring it up about 3-4 times after that, and each time I tried to smile it off and just go back to work.
I would be remiss if I did not say that I notice that my treatment began getting worse after continuously brushing off her coffee invites.
One day, she came to my desk to immediately scrutinize my eyeliner. She said it was too thick and thus considered "faddish." I removed the wings of my eyeliner immediately. Later that day after gym, I returned to my desk to find a print-out of the female makeup standards from AFI 36-2903 on my keyboard.
J oversaw getting signed off on my core tasks for certification. I made a point to repeatedly ask for feedback from J to make sure I was meeting her objectives. Every response I received was positive. Jen would regularly seem passive aggressive and make jokes about me messing up a few letters and such. When those jokes began coming, I started asking for even more feedback. The answers remained the same. I revamped several processes in that section to get things more organized. I developed a checklist and training plan for myself because J did not do anything of the sort.
I started asking others in my office to help refresh me on my Contracting skills. LB became extremely angry and said I had no business asking for help.
I was assigned projects to work with people on in the office. Sometimes I would volunteer to do a little more work on them, mostly because I was feeling uneasy about how LB viewed me. Maj Baumbaugh counseled that I should have evenly split the work/delegated better to avoid "some people" in the office walking over me. I started to wonder if maybe I was too eager to work and that maybe I should slow down and take my time a little more with my work.
LB began calling me into her office to tell me that "people" were remarking on how I go to the gym daily for a long time and then take lunch. Every day as I was able, I would spend 1100-1230 and then take lunch at my desk as I returned to work, never socializing in between. She said she didn't have a problem with me working out as I did, but just remarked that people talk amongst the office and that I have to be aware of that. I would later learn that she was attempting to coerce members of the officer to write letters complaining about my behavior. The only one that may have complied was J. The others refused, as what she was telling them to write about me was not true.
I asked co-workers for feedback since people were supposedly talking behind my back about my daily habits. Everyone said I was "good" or "great."
On July 7th, LB suddenly stated that she was extremely disappointed in me as a leader and took away the airman I supervised. In a threatening tone, she told me that she had spoken to the JAG about me. She said she had been having a co-worker tell her that I was skipping training. I replied that the reasons I could not make it were medical appointments (I have scoliosis and muscle spasms, as well as tendonitis in one knee). These were appointments I had made ahead of time. All other meetings I was mandated to attend, I worked around. I tried to explain that we were merely trying to work around each other’s schedules. When I calmly tried to explain this, she stopped me and told me this was a one-way discussion. She asked something to the effect of “do you have any questions?” I asked if I was understanding correctly that I was not free to make physical therapy appointments. She immediately lashed out saying “don’t you try that with me…. don’t you go there.” I assume she thought I was trying to accuse her from not allowing me to make doctors’ appointments, and thus incriminate her. She asked if LB reiterated that he had told her that I had dodged training with him. I replied that they were a few doctors’ appointments and that I thought we were doing well in training. He said that he was sorry and that he didn’t mean to throw me under the bus. I told him that’s what it seems is happening. LB then interjected and said “Um, no it’s not.” She then sent S out, apologizing to him for this awkward exchange and thanking him for his “honesty.” Keep in mind that S was a Tech Sergeant at the time, a person whom I outranked. She complained about me seeking counsel from my senior NCOs for advice on my work. She mentioned that I complain to other “people” about how Lt S gets to go to meetings on her behalf and I do not, something else that I have never said.
For context, Lieutenant S was the only other officer in the office. He was a white male and I outranked him. It was well known through the office that she favored him about me and treated him almost as an equal, while continuing to treat me poorly. When she was away, she would leave him in charge of the unit. She would put him up for awards and give him more responsibility, even though it was known that his work quality was poor. All the while, I was treated as a remedial case, as if I lacked the mental acuity to do the things he did. I also suspect that he was being used to spy on my on my social media.
The trend was becoming clear. She had a circle of individuals that she favored. They were submitted for awards, highly praised, even invited to her house. They were all white. Every woman of color in the unit was treated poorly, abused, stripped of responsibility, accused of untrue occurrences, and closely monitored. We suspect she used hidden recording devices and hidden cameras Most of them were some of my mentors, and they were not allowed to speak to me. There were whispers around base about this trend. It was very noticed and very evident, yet nothing was done. A few of those women left the Air Force early (as I eventually did) because of the mental harm she did to all of us. My work supervisor was a white male, but he was targeted as well. Anyone that was comparable or superior to her in experience and knowledge seemed to pose a threat. He experienced stress-related health issues due to her treatment, and it persisted after she was gone…as it did for all of us, at some level. Anyone of any color became a target as well if they came to our aid. This is consistent with other victims of hers.
LB said she was concerned that I lacked the mental fortitude to even know what questions to ask about my job. She threated to write me a Letter of Counseling (LOC, very career-harmful for commission officers), saying that she had been merciful to me by not giving me one yet... She said once again that I was defensive and threw others under the bus without hesitation and that I was not behaving like a proper officer. She forbade me to go to any “extra meetings,” not even staff meetings, at which all the leaders of the unit attended on a weekly basis. She remarked that I did not contribute much to staff meetings anyways.
I was crying at this point because, as in the last few meetings I felt trapped. I left the meeting on those notes, wondering if, even with all the steps I’d taken to take care of her priorities, somehow I was just incapable of being a decent officer. I wrote down a few of the past incidents, and the next morning I went to see the chaplain.
8 July: My intent of the meeting with the chaplain was to discern whether or not I was doing anything to deserve these interactions and whether or not I should protect myself. At this point, I thought I was crazy and a dumb, bad person, not deserving of my rank. We had a morning and afternoon session. By the end of the day, it was counseled to me that I was not bringing this treatment upon myself. The chaplain told me that LB had already garnered a reputation of being unstable and inappropriate. He assured me that there was nothing wrong with me, but that I needed to protect myself. He told me to document EVERY interaction I had with her from then on. I was to meet the chaplain again the next week.
15 July: I met with the chaplain again and reviewed the draft documentation. He read it and further assured me that I was not doing anything to deserve this treatment. I asked several times, as I didn’t want to overreact. I said that I was gathering character reference letters (Attachment 9) from colleagues and Air Force Entertainment Staff, whom I worked for when I toured with Tops in Blue. It was counseled to me to gather this documentation with my previous performance reports and other formal written feedback into a package. This package would be my protection if she threatened an LOC ever again. I was then counseled to make an appointment with EO.
I went to my work supervisor and asked if what I did was a huge mess-up. He replied that it wasn’t, that mistakes happen, and that he’s encountered much worse. He mentioned that I’m still new and learning. I informed him that the commander made a comment about it and that I was certain to hear about it today. He said that he didn’t see it as a mistake of that magnitude. I told him again, that, nevertheless, based on LB treatment of me so far, even little mistakes would be cause for a harsh verbal counseling. I left his office and went back to my desk.
Soon after, I visited the Equal Opportunity office. After explaining my situation, she said it sounded like toxic leadership. She asked if I wanted to consider mediation and conflict resolution service. I responded that I have tried to calmly talk to my side of the story with LB, but she usually is dismissive or angry when I do. I told EO I didn’t feel comfortable with that idea and that I was actually terrified that she’d find out I was even at EO. She offered to contact LB’s supervisor, the Mission Support Group Commander, to help hash things out. I declined, as I did not want things to get out of hand or blow things out of proportion. I did not want to start any drama. As a black woman, I always felt the pressure to “not make everything about race,” even though the trend was obvious. She then consoled me and said that there was no reason for me to work in a hostile environment. I said that I would finish the documentation, seek the chaplain for one more session of counseling to set my heart at ease that this was the right thing to do, and then I would contact EO when I was finally ready to see LB’s supervisor. The session ended at 0340 and I stated that I was afraid to go back to the office because I was afraid of her asking where I went. The EO rep suggested that maybe I tell her that I went to EO, and that maybe she would change her behavior if I said that.
When I returned, the secretary, told me to go see the commander immediately. I went into her office and after she finished two phone calls in front of me, she asked where I had been this afternoon. I told her that I took gym time and then went to a counseling session. She asked if I had actually gone to the gym, I told her that I had. She was angry that on my Outlook calendar, I had put “Appt” on that time block and that she didn’t know where I was, that it was “too vague.” She then stated that as the commander, she has a right to know where everyone is at every point of the day. She told me that she was taking away my gym time, that I was not allowed to do anything else but contracting work in the office and that I was only allowed make medical appointments. She said that my conduct had been unbecoming of an officer and that I hadn’t reciprocated her “efforts” to facilitate my development. She said that she had talked to the JAG and IG about me and that she had ensured that she was completely in the right. I sat there calmly and did my best not to show any emotion, because I knew she would chastise me. She asked if I understood. I said “yes ma’am.” She asked if I had any questions, I said “no ma’am.” She said that the fact that I had no questions was alarming to her. I told her that I believed that I had already said everything I could say in past meetings. Regarding any mistakes on the job I had made. she said she had never heard so many excuses (me trying to defend myself against lies) since she was an airman. She then mentioned the mistake on my solicitation. She said that it was an “airman mistake” and said almost in jest that I’m a 1st Lieutenant from the United States Air Force Academy. I told her that I had discussed the incident with my direct work supervisor, resolved the issue and that he had communicated to me that it was a simple mistake. She said that it was not a small mistake. She brough the flight chief in to interrogate her about every single mistake I had made from January 2016 to the present July 2016. LB accused me of not completed an administrative task she had assigned me in February. I tried to reply that I had made many attempts to present the finished product to her over the past few months. She halted me and said that this was a one-way conversation. By this time, I was sobbing and violently shaking. She said that she just believed that I had a lack of desire, that she assigned me a book about motivation because I lacked it. She then said that I had received complaints from J (her girlfriend) about my demeanor and my work ethic. I told her that I regularly asked for feedback from my work supervisors and they said nothing to me. Then, I hear rumors coming from LB in these “verbal counselings.” She then accused me of complaining about her taskers, of making comments about how they weren’t necessary and that they were ridiculous. These were clearly things I had heard other civilians saying, and still crying I tried to say that these were downright lies and that these were someone else’s comments. LB then asked if she needed to call Security Forces to control me. I had not left the sofa since the session began. She told me to sit there and not say a word. She said that she would call them, and they would have me arrested, just because she could. She said no one would believe “someone like me.” I knew exactly what this meant. In previous conversations as me, she inferred that I might be behind the curve because I was “from the wrong side of the tracks,” knowing nothing about me except that I graduated from USAFA and that I was a woman of color. I thought it was an interesting and offensive assumption to make about me and my life. She said that she had spoken to higher-up Air Force leadership about me and that he was aware. She threatened that he could mess up my next assignment and send me somewhere not pleasant, perhaps somewhere I would be separated from my husband…again.
The moment she threatened to have me arrested, I tried to shrink myself as much as possible. LB had given me paperwork for wearing makeup, for my bubbly personality, for dereliction of duty. There was nothing I could do to protect myself. I stopped wearing makeup altogether. I abandoned personal hygiene for the most part because I had no desire for upkeep. I stopped talking. I stopped smiling. I stopped looking people in the eye. I wanted to not draw any attention to myself, but it did not work.
She threatened to move my desk into her office so she could keep a better eye on me.
She threatened to have the entire unit surround me and hurl insults at me, telling me why I was a bad officer. This included airmen I outranked. I was the second highest ranking member in the unit.
She forbade people in the unit to talk to me. I was completely isolated.
She called me in and accused me of spreading rumors about her, telling people that she was “unhinged.” I had NEVER spoken to anyone about her, besides my husband. As a matter of fact, I had not even told my friends because I was too embarrassed of the situation. After that, she began spreading rumors of insanity about me, leading my friends’ commanders to urge them to isolate me.
Many sessions like this occurred. I recently found out that after she would dismiss me, crying out of her office after being threatened, she would pull aside a co-worker to “check on Nicque, because I think she might hurt herself,” suggesting that I was suicidal. That co-worker stated that I was stable and stated that she refused to spy on me for her. This happened several times apparently, suggesting that she was indeed trying to push me to either harm myself or lash out to her. I am well aware that I am an expressive Afro Latin woman, and that I had several stereotypes working against me…stereotypes she was counting on. I knew she was reaching for the opportunity to make lash out so that I could dig my own grave. I resolved to never give her that chance, and stood my ground, spoke softly, even through tears, stood at attention or parade rest every time she called for me, and gave her no justification to paint me as aggressive or dangerous to myself or others. The calmer I remained, the worse she became, and the more she pushed the envelope.
She began requiring me to log all my activity every hour on the hour and report it to her daily.
She had me followed, telling me that “it’s a small base and it’s a small town…and I have eyes everywhere.” She made sure to make me know that I was followed, because whenever I got back from visiting the chaplain for spiritual guidance or from mental health (I had started going because of all this), she would greet me upon my return and tell me that she knew where I had been. I could not even go into town in peace. I did not know by what method she would possibly have me followed in Grand Forks, but I felt that she would find a way. I remember my mom calling me while I was shopping at Old Navy to check on the situation. I went to hide in a clothes rack before speaking frankly to her, just in case there was someone who had followed me into the store. I was terrified.
She disconnected my office chat, saying that it was distraction from my work. I could not communicate with anyone. I had used it to communicate with the chaplain to set up meetings without her knowledge, since I had told him she was having me followed. I knew she had my IM and email activity monitored.
She restricted my movements on base and requiring me to report to one of her friends in the office every time I left the office area.
One occasion led me to finally file a complaint. On another one of these debasing sessions, I believe October 12, 2016, I completely broke down crying, on the floor, in uniform, on my knees, begging “please stop.” To that, she laughed out loud. The Superintendent, who was also present, joined in on the laughter. At that moment, for some reason it finally clicked: she enjoyed this. This was entertainment for her. On that day, I went to file a complaint to the Inspector General. I also started going to therapy at the Mental Health clinic for the first time ever.
I had put this complaint off for so long because I had no intentions when initiating this process to cause any harm to anyone's career. I only desired to know if I indeed had committed acts that warranted LOCs and how I could protect myself from a potentially toxic leader if the need were present. I only want to work diligently in any way that supports the unit daily and to feel confident enough to take on challenges and readjust to the career field without the fear of making small mistakes or being potentially punished for actions that do not warrant punishment. I did not want to make accusations without first doing self-reflection on what I might be doing wrong, and I certainly did not want to jump the gun by instantly blaming my commander for any of my shortcomings. Therefore, it took a few months and two mentions of LOCs explicitly from her for me to come forward to anyone about this situation.
Some time after I filed that complaint, I was called into HER boss’s officer, Col H. This man was known around base to have racist tendencies and to be friends with LB. He, with her present, threatened to have me kicked out of the Air Force. He then dismissed me.
Also after I filed that complaint, she banned me from attending training for my next level of certification, with the reasoning that I lack the mental capacity for further learning and that it would be a waste of government money.
She gave me orders to not engage with “any other agency” what went on between me and her in her office. This, by the way, is an illegal statement to make to a military member. She said I could not even tell my husband what was going on. She said if I wanted to tell anyone about what she was doing to me, I could talk to a lawyer. This did not surprise me much, as military commanders have almost omnipotent power over their subordinates and can do whatever they want to them, if they are able to come up with a good enough reason. So, she knew the bare bones boundaries of what she could say and do to me and be untouchable. I went to see the Airman Defense Counsel immediately afterwards. They pretty much said “that sucks” and said I had to go back to work. I panicked, telling them that I could not possibly go back to work, after she had just given me an illegal order to not report her treatment of me.
During this period of my life, I was a zombie. She had taken all my responsibility as an officer, and much of my workload away. She would pace back and forth by my desk glaring at me. I tried my best to look down. If I entered her office, for which she had an “open door policy” without knocking on the OPEN DOOR, she would scream at me and ask how dare I think I can just approach her so casually. This was funny, as I had seen several white members of the squadron just pop into her office. Those of us of color seemed to not have that same privilege. Sometimes she would demand me to accomplish a task for her, and then when I had completed it, she’d shoo me away like a dog or a slave, remarking “can’t you do anything right?” or “well what are you still standing here for?”
Every night I went to bed praying for God to take my life in my sleep, because I could not bear to face another day. Every morning when I woke up, I screamed in terror that I was still alive. I screamed all the way to work in my car and sobbed all the way back home. Then I would collapse on the couch, barely eating, barely interacting with my husband, only to start the cycle again. This became my norm. Sunday nights were especially bad, dreading to have to return to LB after a brief respite of two days. To this this day, I still experience severe panic attacks every Sunday night.
One day she said that she was going to have me psychologically evaluated, because she believed I had a personality disorder or a mental problem and that “we were going to get this fixed, together.” I endured a whole of testing at the base medical facility. I wanted them to find something wrong. I wanted to know what made me so dumb, what made me so bad. I wanted to know the reason. At the end of the day, I met with the head psychologist. She told me that they had run several tests that were designed to catch pathological lying, narcissism, personality disorders, etc. She said that my results showed that I was entirely truthful and that I had no personality disorders. There was a diagnosis of general anxiety and depression, but she believed that it was due to the stress I was being put under. LB had submitted all the paperwork she had written me, as well as supposedly letters other people had written about me. The doctor said none of it made sense to her, that nothing in that stack of papers seemed legitimate or even fully coherent. She stated that I was a high-achieving USAFA graduate with a previously high reputation. It was evident to her that any issues I was currently having was not of my doing. The doctor also stated that it was not my mental state she was worried about, it was LBs. She told me that the whole day I had been there, being psychologically evaluated on commander’s orders, she had called the Mental Health clinic about 5-6 times, asking “where is she?? When is she coming back?? Why is this taking so long??” The psychologist stated that she noted some disturbing, obsessive behavior from her, and that for some reason, she was fixated on me. She did not know why, but it was concerning. I remember crying, telling her that I wanted so bad to find out what was wrong with me, that I should be happy to know that I’m not “defective” as LB had suggested, but now I was terrified. The doctor asked me what she could do to help. I told her that I needed to be out of that office, and away from her. She said she would see what she could do. She sent the diagnoses and recommendations to LB, recommendations that I be moved out of the office for my health. LB vehemently refused. My therapist informed me of this at one of our next sessions.
The obsessive behavior continued. LB would call my therapist and ask for details about my care and what was being said in our sessions. Of course, my therapist would tell her that she would not divulge that information. Based on LB’s behavior, and my mentioning that she had pressed me initially for those coffee dates, my therapist shared her view that the fixation might even be sexual in nature, even stating to me once that this could possibly be consider sexual harassment. I pushed that idea out of my mind because I still did not think, even after all this, that I even had the right to call this sexual harassment. That thought has continued to stick with me to this day, however.
LB would print out Facebook posts of mine, and blog posts I had started writing about mental health and sent them to my therapist. They were innocuous, innocent posts, so my therapist was confused and equally disturbed as to why she was sending these. When this started occurring, my therapist started to get even more serious with me regarding an escape plan. She told me to make my social media completely private and to not post at all. She told me to become a ghost on social media. She then told me that LBs behavior was becoming so obtrusive and threatening that I needed an escape plan. She instructed me to pack a go-bag, a bag with extra clothes and essentials in case LB came to my house to “do something to me” and I needed to make a quick escape. She instructed me to check under my car for bombs and explosives every time I got in the car to drive. She helped me write out an escape plan and identify the people to which I could go if I needed a place to hide. As always, she asked if I was suicidal. As usual, truthfully, I replied “no.” Even though I continued waking up every day screaming, terrified that I had survived the night, hoping to pass in my sleep, I’d never had any thoughts of killing myself.
I went home and told all this to my husband. I have just learned recently that my husband, upon hearing this, also made an escape plan for us. He told his boss and co-workers that the day might come that he and his wife might have to skip town because I was being harassed. Apparently, they were all understanding and in on the plan. He kept extra clothes in the car. I always remembered that he would be frustrated with me when I would forget to fill up the tank. He told me recently that this was not only because…like….you should fill up your tank like an adult should…but that he was concerned that if we needed to make this “quick get-away,” we wouldn’t be able to for lack of gas. For 4 years, I never knew that he had all this planned out…
Things were getting scary. The Inspector General case was taking too long. On average, those take about 6 months. In the meantime, she was free to destroy my life and reputation. I decided to go straight to the top because I had nothing else to lose. I scheduled a meeting with the base commander of Grand Forks Air Force Base. He and the Vice Commander were welcoming and kind. We sat down together, and I told them what was going on. I cried. I cried hard. I told them how afraid I was. I told them that I knew I was being watched, and that she definitely had me followed to this meeting, she knew where I was and who I was talking to at that moment. But I had nothing left to lose: no reputation, no career, no respect, and no honor. They seemed to believe me and told me to keep documenting and they would see what they could do.
After I got back from that meeting, I believe LB called me in, told me that she knew where I had been.
The next incident I am about to describe is the worst day of my life: April 6, 2017. I was crying in the bathroom stall at work…I had done this every day for months. I was sitting on the toilet, pants down, doing my business, but sobbing all the while. LB came into the bathroom and heard me crying. She told me to come out. I said “no, please,” begging to just be allowed to cry. LB told me to come out again, and I could not even get words out, I just sobbed. She left the bathroom. About 5 minutes later, military police, firemen and the chaplain came into the women’s bathroom. She had called 911, or whomever, and said that I was homicidal/suicidal. She also said I had locked myself in the bathroom to harm myself. This was not true. I was in bolted stall for the purpose of taking a shit, like a normal person in a normal bathroom. I stated that I was just using the bathroom and crying. Regardless, they said I had to come with them. I was allowed to wipe myself, wash my hands, and then they led me out of the building.
I remember clear as day: the entire building was evacuated. The fire department was there along with several police cars. I was escorted into the ambulance, joined by the chaplain and military police. I looked out the window and caught a glimpse of LB laughing and dabbing another member of the unit, as though this was a all cruel prank. The ambulance took me to Mental Health. My therapist met me immediately and embraced me, asking “you’re not suicidal, are you??” I told her no, I was not. She told everyone she had it from here and took me back to her office. I explained everything that happened. She was horrified and I remember her being distraught, apologizing over and over that she could not do more, racking her brain of what more she could do. She said that this incident would lead to PTSD. I was hyperventilating, sobbing, and my chest hurt. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and that I was going to die. My therapist escorted me to another part of the medical facility. The doctor gave me an EKG because I might have been having a heart attack. The results of the EKG showed that my heart was actually extremely healthy, and that I had just suffered a sever panic attack. They prescribed me anti-depressants, and I went back to sit with my therapist. For as “concerned” as LB was about my mental state, no one had come to pick me back up. It was a small base, so I said that I would walk back to work. On the way I knocked on the door of every person I could think of that could get me out of the military immediately. I could not do this anymore. I asked the chaplain. He said he could do nothing. I walked to the office of the Vice Mission Support Group Commander. He said he could nothing. I began to walk back to work, calling my husband to tell him what had happened. A member of my unit happened to be driving by and saw me walking on the side of the road. He gave me a lift back to the unit. When I got there, the few friends and mentors I had (ones that were forbidden to talk to me or help me), rushed to embrace me and held me tight. LB had led them to believe that I had actually made an attempt on my life; someone even said they saw blood in the bathroom. I showed them parts of my body to assure them that I did not hurt myself. My husband showed up shortly afterwards to check on me and then escort me home.
A few days later, LB called me into her office and said that I would be moving out of the office, and that I had until the next morning to move my things. She did not seem happy about it. When I saw my therapist later, she suggested to me that the base commander had forced her to move me away from her. Mental Health had also given the statement that if I were not moved away from her “the stress would literally kill [me].” Not in a figurative sense, no…. that the stress would end my life.
The next morning, I packed the last of my things to move to another unit, where I would just sit behind a desk for the remaining months until LB left for her next assignment as a commander at Whiteman AFB. As I packed, I noticed that a coin in my rack had been stolen: my Tops in Blue coin, reminiscent of the program I was a part of that she hated. To this day, I am not 100% sure who stole it, but it was the least of my worries at the moment. I swept all my coins into a box, all the coins I had earned over my time at USAFA and on tour with Air Force Entertainment. I do not believe I ever displayed my coin rack ever again during my active duty time.
When I left, she wiped all my training records clean, effectively requiring that I do it all over again. I had to report to her or one of her friends by email whenever I left the new building in which I was now housed. I only had to return to the squadron for mandatory unit-wide meetings. One meeting I attended was to receive an award for my physical fitness test. I had scored something like a 98% (all the while, having a panic attack, as had become common. It is incredibly hard to run 1.5 miles as fast as you can while having a panic attack. I threw up for a long time after that test). She presented the other awardees with their certificates, only to tell me to grab mine off the printer.
Regardless, at least I was away from her from now on. But upon getting to this point, I had lost my dignity, my reputation, my status as a commissioned officer. I was treated worse than a dog for all those months.
For most of 2016 and some of 2017, I started driving out to a secluded location on base for lunch. That way, I could see if anyone were following me. I would drive there to eat and cry and make private phone calls that I could not do otherwise. However, one of my friends did find me in that field. He called several of my other friends over and they all congregated there with me. My friend asked if I had been out here eating lunch by myself all this time. I said yes. I told them that I was afraid to be seen with my other officer friends. I was afraid that if anyone were to see them hanging out with me, their reputations would be ruined too. My friends said, “FUCK THAT” and insisted that I would never eat lunch by myself again. My friends took turns going to lunch with me, looking after me, also monitoring my mood and any signs of suicide or self-harm (I would later find out).
LB moved to Whiteman AFB in June 2017. In July 2017, I was diagnosed with severe PTSD as well as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder and Panic Disorder. Though she was gone, she never seemed to quite be gone. I recall going grocery shopping and glancing up to see someone with a similar build and haircut as her. I remember sprinting with my shopping cart to the frozen foods aisle to hide, and I was unable to move for about 15 minutes. I checked out my items and ran to the car to cry…. even though I knew she was physically not there anymore. I had constant panic attacks that sent me to the ER several times, one was for incredibly painful muscle spasms from anxiety, that I still suffer from, that required steroid shots. Another trip was made when I fainted at the wheel of my car and ran into a field, narrowly missing a cell tower. I suffered from awfully long, very dark depressive episodes, feeling the urge of self-harm for the first time ever. If my husband and friends from base and in town weren’t looking out for me, if they didn’t show up to my apartment unannounced just because “they had a feeling,” if my best friend didn’t book a (expensive) ticket on a whim to see me for a weekend, feeling concerned because she had never heard me sound so depressed, I really don’t know if I’d be alive right now.
The commander that came after LB was wonderful. He heard about what happened to me. She had even tried to issue me paperwork as she was leaving Grand Forks AFB. My new commander showed it to me and tore it up, refusing to issue it. I wanted to get back to normal. I wanted so badly to be a true officer again, to help him run the unit. But nothing was the same. I have never been the same since then. Thankfully, he was understanding. He gave me the space I needed. I went to intensive therapy two times a week and could go to physical therapy for my back again, without fear of being followed or punished.
My promotion to Captain had been delayed because of the subpar performance report she had given me. In all honesty, ironically, I felt it was true that I did not deserve my promotion to Captain. I had been in survival mode for a year and a half. I was stripped of my duties and I did everything I could be invisible. I was never allowed the chance to earn the rank of Captain. My new commander fought for me, and I was surprised one day, in the last few months of my Air Force commitment, when his boss, the new Mission Support Commander, presented me with my selection letter for the rank of Captain. I broke down sobbing, because I had fully expected to leave the Air Force, never getting to be called “Captain Robinson,” At least I could be “Captain-select Robinson.” I hugged her and I ran across the room to hug my commander. He had faith in me when I still saw myself as useless and defective. On my last day in the Air Force, I thanked my new commander for giving me space to try and heal, and I also told him that I was sorry that I couldn’t be the Captain he needed and deserved; but that maybe one day, because he allowed me that space and peace, perhaps I could be to someone else what I wish I could have been for him.
I still suffer from PTSD and I fight the effects of that year and a half every single day of my life. When the Central Park Amy Cooper case came out, I started waking up in panic attacks, because it reminded me of when she threatened to send me to jail. When George Floyd was killed, and I watched those monsters murder him, the look in their eyes was the same as LB’s as she watched me crumble to the floor many times in her office, knowing that she was trying to push me to suicide. When I wrote my BLM article, and was subsequently connected with more victims of hers (the total list is about 20 people), I was enraged when we discovered that she did the same atrocities to all of us, particularly high-achieving airmen of color. When Vanessa Guillen’s body was found, and her story told, I remembered my therapist telling me to plan to escape should LB come to my house to possibly attack me.
The Air Force and military in general has showed time and time again that it will not hold dangerous and toxic leaders accountable and that it does not care about members of color. After I begged for a year to be released from the Air Force because I was no longer mentally fit to serve in any capacity, I watched a white female peer be released within months of her arriving to the station, being medically separated for mental health issues, currently collecting a check comparable to a retirement check. Meanwhile, I had to fight through the VA system to get my 80% disability rating and collect a somewhat-decent monthly check.
Like many servicemembers, like Vanessa, I knocked on every door of every agency that we are told to contact, should we believe we are being mistreated. They failed us. Especially Vanessa and anyone like her.
When I put on the uniform, when I received my commission as an officer in the Air Force, I made an oath to give my life for my country. We all did. Whether or not I still believe in what the United States military stands for is another conversation altogether. But if we were sent to fight, we were prepared to die. I was prepared to die. It comes with the job, and they train us for it. They do not train you for when the biggest threat to your life and health is down the hall in the commander’s office. I never got to serve at my full capacity as a leader because she took that from me. She took my health from me. She took years of my life from me. For Vanessa, her abuser took absolutely everything from her.
The purpose of my testimony and those of others is simple: I am calling for LB’s removal from the Air Force. Not a reassignment, but a forced separation. Like many abusive leaders, she has left a trail of broken bodies and careers wherever she goes, and her next assignment is to work in the University of North Dakota ROTC Detachment. If and when she chooses her next target, that cadet will not be under the UCMJ, and thus will not be able to appeal to the VA in order to collect a check for almost $2000 like I and many of her other victims do. She cannot be allowed to oversee, or in proximity to airmen or future airmen in any capacity.
I contacted her chain of command to discuss this, but I never received a response from any of them. I let them know that I knew that the only thing that moves the Air Force (or any government agency) to action in these situations is mass media embarrassment. I let them know if they did not move fast enough, I would swiftly provide that embarrassment. Because no one moved quickly enough to save me. No one moved quickly enough to save her other victims. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE moved to save Vanessa.
I have friends still in the Air Force who have suffered racism, rape, abuse, and subsequently suffer from mental health issues. They cannot speak for themselves, but I can, because I am no longer under the control of the Air Force or of LB. She cannot touch me anymore.
After this testimony, I will not pursue this anymore. This is not a revenge mission. This is about accountability. Perhaps the Air Force will move on our demands and remove this woman from their ranks, perhaps they will not. Either way, now the world knows who she is and what she did to us.
She took so much from me, and I will never be the same again. However, I am determined to keep moving forward. I turned off my joy, my personality, my vitality, just for the chance to be less seen by her. To this day, I have difficulty feeling genuine joy. I still have many years of therapy and medication ahead of me.
But what I find fucking hilarious is that the energetic personality she forced me to hide away, that she found repulsive and used to villainize me, I am now well-known for. With a platform and audience of over 400K people all around the world, I am able to create content to make people laugh. Even if I can only bring that spark back a little bit at a time, just long enough to record a skit, I am finding that personality again.
I am able to be open about my disability and help others feel less alone, like I have.
I was a host at Anime Expo this year, something I never dreamed I would get to do.
I am a signed recording artist with fantastic producer that I trust.
I have a fantastic job now where I feel valued and protected.
She wanted me destroyed. She wanted to push me to pull the trigger on myself. But I am still here, I am still alive, and despite still being so very, very broken, I am on my way. And just like the world now knows my name, they will know hers. She is more than welcome to deny my story, but then she will have to deny the stories of all the other victims that have come forward to share their accounts. I would imagine that would be a lofty ambition.
And now, I want to use my platform to call attention, not only to LB and my story, but to all the abusive, harassing, assaulting members that the Department of Defense continuously fails to remove, and to all the ruined careers, suicides and almost-suicides of airmen, particularly airmen of color, that they are completely willing to accept, just to save a few bucks and not have to replace these dangerous people.
Air Force, you always told us “people first, mission second.” I call bullshit. Your white leaders shy away from talking about race, resorting to the same old “we all wear the same uniform, we don’t see color,” continuously invalidating the pain and mistreatment of people like me and similar victims. You have shown us time and time again that we do not matter. Well, all lives cannot matter until you prove that non-white lives matter. Black Lives Matter. Or, even that your airmen’s’ lives matter. So now, you get to prove it. Here is your chance. I promised to embarrass the Air Force, and I am making good on my promise, even though I have struggled through perhaps the most debilitating panic attack of my life to finish writing this manifesto.
Her name is Leigh Baumbaugh. Start with her.
Remove her from the Air Force, and then get the hell to work finding and eliminating the other cancerous leaders you have allowed to fester in the “greatest Air Force in the world.” Get to work, because stories like mine, the other victims of LB and ESPECIALLY of servicemembers like Vanessa Guillen are UNACCEPTABLE.
Well? We are waiting. If you need me, you can always reach my fan-mail account: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will probably be busy tending to my fans, but if you really want to talk, I suppose I could make some time for you.