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Sixty removed from U.S. military jobs in sexual assault review

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Sixty people have been removed from jobs as military recruiters, drill instructors and victims counselors as a result of screenings ordered following a jump in the number of sexual assault in the U.S. armed forces, officials said on Friday.

The Army said 55 people had been suspended from their positions since screenings ordered by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel began last month. The screenings are continuing, with the service hoping to complete 20,000 by October 1, a spokesman said.

The Navy said it had screened more than 10,000 recruiters, drill instructors and personnel responsible for assisting sexual assault victims and had removed five people from their positions.

Hagel ordered the military in May to redouble its efforts to ensure that every service member "clearly understands" they are responsible for fostering a climate where sexual assault is not tolerated. The services ordered a rescreening of people in sensitive jobs to ensure they had proper credentials.

The move came a week after the Pentagon issued an annual report showing a 37 percent jump in cases of unwanted sexual contact in the military.

The report coincided with a spate of high-profile assault cases, including some involving drill instructors and people charged with helping sexual assault victims.

The 60 people were removed from their positions for a variety of reasons, ranging from alcohol-related concerns to unwanted sexual contact to other conduct that raised questions about their suitability for the jobs, officials said.

"The leadership of this department has no higher priority than the safety and welfare of our men and women in uniform, and that includes ensuring they are free from the threat of sexual harassment and sexual assault," said Lieutenant Colonel Cathy Wilkinson, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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