WASHINGTON -- The days of Air Force Academy cadets marching up and down the campus square as punishment for minor infractions are nearing an end.
The disciplinary system featuring demerits and marches has been a hallmark of the military academies for decades, but academy commanders are doing away with it, relying solely on the punishment available under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which is used at Air Force and other military bases.
The decision comes as new academy leaders seek to restore the school's reputation after revelations a year ago brought to light a serious failing in the academy's handling of allegations of sexual assaults of cadets.
Academy spokesman Johnny Whitaker said the change will leave cadets better prepared to be part of the Air Force when they graduate.
"As we're trying to fix the culture and fix the problems that we face across the board, whether it's the sexual assaults or the underage drinking, one of the major goals is to bring the academy back -- to close the gap between it and the operating Air Force and do away with things that are academy-unique," Whitaker said.
Brigadier General Johnny Weida, the commandant of cadets at the academy, briefed Air Force officials at the Pentagon on the changes during a video conference last week.
The US Military Academy and US Naval Academy are not changing their cadet disciplinary system, which is similar to the Air Force Academy's.
Officers hope to have the old Air Force cadet system phased out completely by the time cadets return from spring break next year.
Investigative panels have reported 142 cases of alleged sexual assault from 1993 through 2002 at the school, which is near Colorado Springs.
Top commanders were replaced in April as Air Force leaders sought to institute major reforms.
The Uniform Code of Military Justice has always applied at the academy for serious offenses.
For example, of the 42 reported sexual assault cases where a cadet suspect was identified by the alleged victim, six were court-martialed under the uniform code, and eight were punished through administrative avenues available under the code.
The cadet disciplinary system gave commanders a way to deal with minor infractions, such as being late to class or breaking curfew, that don't warrant a formal military reprimand or charges.
Whitaker said some aspects of how to deal with minor infractions are being worked out, but it will be a graduated system where punishments will reflect the offenses.
Cadets could be given verbal counseling or a letter of admonition in cases where the offense doesn't rise to the level of a formal reprimand or a court-martial.