Air Force takes a stand

Sexual assault … an inexcusable crime, a heart-breaking offense, and a terrible act of wrongdoing. Lately, the Department of Defense has had its fair share of sexual assault cases. But what exactly is the U.S. Air Force doing about it?

SAPR focus groups

From mandatory classes to entire days dedicated to base-wide training, this issue isn’t going to be brushed under the rug.

Instead, the Air Force is talking openly and honestly about it. Representatives from the Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Headquarters hosted focus groups on 14 Air Force bases to seek feedback from Airmen around the world. The mission of the groups was to hear what the Airmen think the root of the problem is and what they feel is the best way to fix it.

SAPR focus groups

Participants were organized into small groups by wing leadership, company grade officers, noncommissioned officers, Airmen, and representatives who deal with Sexual Assault Prevention and Response issues regularly, such as SAPR coordinators, legal, and security forces.

Thanks to the non-attributable policy and small group settings, Airmen felt comfortable sharing many ideas and opinions on the topic during the discussions.

SAPR focus groups

But, one common theme seemed to echo from voice to voice; the Air Force knows that this is an issue and leaders spend countless hours thinking of ways to help combat sexual assaults.

Training and education at all levels will be derived from information gathered from focus groups, SAPR blog, and the next survey launching in January 2014. New programs are also being developed to start teaching Airmen about our culture of dignity and respect as early as Basic Military Training.

A new BMT transition program will teach what it means to be an Airman and what type of behavior is acceptable. Expectations are communicated, and Airmen are taught the value of human respect. But it doesn’t stop here … this training will continue in each professional military training course throughout an Airman’s career.

To bring training to a local level, first term Airmen new to Spangdahlem AB participate in an innovative program created by the legal office. During their first few weeks here, new Airmen sit in a courtroom and witness a recreated video testimonial of a real-life sexual assault case. Afterwards, the legal team asks the Airmen to make a decision: guilty or not. This real-life training allows Airmen to gain a perspective of the legal and emotional consequences of not being a good wingman.

Sexual assault isn’t something that just goes away…but thanks to the contributions of these focus groups, our members of the Air Force family are taking a step in the right direction.

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