Imagine you’re a brand new Airman — fresh out of months of basic training and technical school – and your first assignment is Spangdahlem Air Base. After hours of the transatlantic flight, you finally set foot on Saber Nation. Your new office welcomes you and shows you your in-processing checklist: set up post office box, move-in to new dorm, serve as juror on a sexual assault case, buy groceries…
“Wait a minute… I’m supposed to do what?”
The above-listed itinerary is not at random or an oversight: it’s a part of the 52nd Fighter Wing’s innovative new curriculum to educate First-Term Airmen Center Airmen about the importance of consent and consequences of sexual assault.
The 52nd Fighter Wing Judge Advocate, with the support of the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Base Chapel, conducted “Got Consent?,” a new training simulated trial involving sexual assault, for more than 30 first-term Airmen at the base legal office Oct. 24.
The offices banded together for the interactive project – appointing junior enlisted as jury members for one of their peers – as part of First Term Airman Center’s new curriculum to educate Airmen about the dangers of sexual assault as well as the murky complexities behind weighing each specific case.
“Our whole purpose is to contribute to fostering a culture of respect for other Airmen and to take care of their wingmen,” said Capt. Samuel Welch, 52nd Fighter Wing Judge Advocate chief of military justice from Fort Worth, Texas. “This is a way from the beginning of their career – the beginning of the time that they show up at the installation – to get them thinking about this so if they see something going on with a friend that shouldn’t be going on that they know it and have the courage to step in and stop it.”
In the program, Airmen participate in an abbreviated court-martial process, including an opportunity to weigh arguments centered on that very term of “consent,” in an environment similar to legal dramas they may see on television and in ones the legal office’s mission is to facilitate.
Airman 1st Class John Forehand, a 52nd Equipment Maintenance Squadron aerospace ground equipment mechanic from Statesville, N.C., arrived at Spangdahlem just six weeks prior to serving as one of the 12 jurors. Of all the “Got Consent?’ features, he said he most appreciated receiving education through a different medium.
“It’s a very realistic scenario,” he said. “All through our training up until this point, we’ve done briefing after briefing after briefing all day long. It gets us out of the briefing environment. We’re not just looking at a projector and slides and PowerPoint. It gets your mind flowing a little, but it’s more than watching a video itself or reading about it in a slideshow. It gets you into it and actually thinking about it.”
One of Forehand’s fellow FTAC Airmen, Airman 1st Class Juanita Baker, 606th Air Control Squadron ground radar apprentice from Damiansville, Ill., also arrived at Spangdahlem in early September. Although not part of the jury, Baker discussed the merits of the case with fellow spectators in the gallery.
“I feel it’s very important that you get involved because if you don’t, you may end up being one of the people sitting here in this courtroom,” Baker said. “Before I got into the Air Force, I never even thought about it. Now that I’m here, I’m so happy the Air Force has taken a stand on this.”