Robins squadron member named ‘Miss Military,’ gives up the crown

Airman 1st Class Apryl Sanders, a weapons manager for the 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, was named Miss Military last month by a nonprofit organization in California.

Wednesday, she e-mailed the contest organizer to refuse the crown.

The California-based Military Civilian Experience Inc. organized the event, which also named a Mr. Military. Calvin Hill, the group’s founder, said Sanders was forced to give up the crown by her superiors.

“The chain of command put pressure on her,” Hill said. “Something is going on there.”

Sanders initially declined to comment on why she campaigned for the title then resigned the title three weeks after winning the contest. Late Wednesday afternoon, Sanders responded to requests for comment by claiming her decision came because she is about to be deployed, and that “it would be impossible for me to fulfill those obligations” inherent in serving as Miss Military.

A spokeswoman for the 116th Air Control Wing, the 16th ACCS’s parent unit, gave a different explanation.

“She did a competition without the approval of her chain of command,” said Judy Smith, public affairs officer for the unit.

Smith said that the unit’s Judge Advocate General’s staff counseled Sanders that Military Civilian Experience was using the contest to raise money, thus making her ineligible as a uniformed service member. Sanders will not be reprimanded for participating in the event, Smith said.

Hill, who recently retired from the Navy, said he contacted officials from, the Pentagon’s community relations group, and Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., to clear the event.

“I made sure to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t,’ ’’ he said. Hill said that no one associated with the Department of Defense attempted to dissuade him from organizing the contest.

A spokesman for Hunter called Hill’s correspondence “strictly informational” and said it did not seek or receive approval from the congressman.

The pageant was held online. Since the contestants were scattered all over the globe, there was no physical location for the event. Sanders was one of about 20 contestants who posted videos of themselves on YouTube starting in December 2008, making their pitches for the crown. Sanders’ video has since been removed from YouTube. The winners were decided in an online poll.

This was the first Miss Military contest. They honored Petty Officer 2nd Class Habib Zaiden as Mr. Military.

The Military Civilian Experience describes itself as an organization with a mission to “help active duty military of all ranks and branches obtain valuable civilian work experience,” according to its Web site.

Sanders, the daughter of two Army soldiers, was raised in Germany. She is set to deploy with her unit by the end of the year. To contact writer Thomas L. Day, call 744-4489.