In the commentary below, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Larry Spencer, gives direct feedback to Airmen on comments and suggestions posted on the service’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response blog.
Since launching July 15, more than 900 comments have been posted on the blog, with more than 500 coming on the first posting.
“’We can’t fix this issue sitting in the Pentagon,’” said General Spencer in the inaugural SAPR blog post. “’We need each and every one of you to get engaged in addressing this issue… this crime, and it is a crime. We need to know exactly where you feel the issues are, so we can address them with laser focus. I need every one of you helping us find ways to ensure dignity and respect are prevailing qualities in our daily relationships.’”
Today, Spencer wants Airmen to know their voice has been heard by senior leadership and suggestions are being acted upon.
Gen. Larry Spencer
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff
Once again, you answered the call and responded to our request to hear from you – thank you.
More than two months ago, I launched the “Every Airman Counts” campaign in an effort to communicate directly with Airmen on how best to address the issue of sexual assault prevention and response within our organization. One of the tools we developed is a blog to stimulate discussion and for you to share your never-ending innovative suggestions, ideas, or concerns with each other and senior leaders. Let me tell you – your senior leaders read the blog daily and we appreciate your candid comments.
As of today, we have received roughly 900 comments on the blog. What’s more, we have had approximately 46,000 visits to the site. What this tells me is that you care – you are taking time to read about a problem that affects us all and give us suggestions on how to fix it.
There have been a lot of great comments – too many to discuss in this article – but I felt it was appropriate to give you some feedback and to highlight some recurring themes and key take-aways senior leaders have gleaned from the blog.
First, a number of you mentioned the need for more focused training at all levels, but most importantly, for commanders and front-line supervisors. You’re also telling us we need realistic training with realistic scenarios and small group discussions for the training to be effective. We’ve taken some initial actions on each of these suggestions and will continue to expand and intensify our efforts.
Another issue you raised is that alcohol abuse is commonly linked to sexual assault. We hear you and the data shows you are correct. As a result, we have reached out to our MAJCOMs to gather best practices regarding use of alcohol in the dorms, and may explore different options to see what makes sense to implement across the Air Force.
Next, several blog entries highlighted victim blaming as a concern. To be clear, we cannot and will not blame the victim! Our training efforts will ensure every Airman understands the toll this trauma exacts on victims and their families. If you haven’t been to the blog to watch the videos of our three extremely strong survivors, I encourage you to do so – it is heart wrenching, but will truly help you understand the spectrum of trauma victims endure. It took a lot of courage for these women to come forward and tell their stories, but they did so to help others and help our Air Force.
Based on your blog entries and feedback from focus groups, we have several other initiatives underway as well. On August 1st we implemented an advanced course on how to deal with sexual assault, and have trained more than 96 OSI agents and legal representatives to date. Additionally, we are developing a Basic Military Training Transition program where our newest Airmen will spend one-week in a classroom environment between BMT graduation and technical school. Here they will learn about a variety of issues to include the Air Force culture and what’s expected of them as Airmen. Finally, this month, we will share final outcomes of convicted court cases with the Air Force Times so all of our Airmen can have visibility on the final disposition of those convicted of this crime. Additionally, synopses of sexual assault convictions from 2010 to present can be found at http://www.afjag.af.mil/sexualassaultprosecution.
The Secretary of the Air Force, Chief of Staff, and I are fully committed to eradicating the crime of sexual assault from our Service – but we can’t do this alone. We need each and every one of you focused on this problem. Every Airman Counts means we treat each other with dignity and respect. Thank you again for helping us work this issue – we’re looking for “game changers” so keep those ideas coming.
Thank you also for all you do to make our Air Force the best the world has ever seen. Airpower!
Please continue to post your comments and concerns on the blog at http://afsapr.dodlive.mil.
PHOTO: Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Larry Spencer speaks with Airmen from the 11th Logistics Readiness Squadron on Joint Base Andrews, Md., June 6, 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Erin O’Shea)