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WASHINGTON (AP) - The Air Force's top officer says the service recorded an "appalling" number of reports of sexual assault last year even as it worked to curb misconduct in the wake of a sex scandal at its training headquarters in Texas.

Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday there were 796 reports of cases ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. The 2012 figure is a nearly 30 percent increase from 2011. The number could be much greater, Welsh said, because many cases are never reported at all.

Welsh said that "calling these numbers unacceptable does not do the victims justice. The truth is, these numbers are appalling!"

The Air Force has created a special unit to assist victims of sexual assault.

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