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Air Force begins full-scale assault assessment

by Master Sgt. Scott Elliott
Air Force Print News

WASHINGTON -- Allegations of sexual misconduct at the Air Force Academy and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, have prompted the Air Staff to direct an Air Force-wide review of its policies, procedures and victim programs.

Officials at each Air Force major command have formed sexual-assault integrated-process teams to survey and assess the activities at each of their bases, said Maj. Gen. John Speigel, director of personnel policy at the Pentagon.

"The (officials) put their teams together to go out and assess each of their bases and look at procedures to ensure we have the right mechanisms and policies in place," he said.

Deployed locations will also be surveyed.

"We are concerned about the medical support that's available ... to ensure that victims are taken care of in a timely and caring manner," the general said.

The teams have until April 9 to turn in their findings, General Speigel said. Those results will then be compiled into a "game plan" for presentation to the Air Force's four-star generals at the Corona conference in May.

"Sexual assault is a crime. It also breaks down teamwork, unit cohesion and morale," General Speigel said. "All of that (affects) our readiness, and that's why we find this such a troublesome issue."

The Air Force is not immune to sexual assault because it is reflective of the American society where this too is a problem, the general said.

"We're appalled at the notion of any rapes or sexual assaults in our Air Force," he said. "But we recognize this as a societal issue as well, and we need to dig into it and figure out what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong, and then fix it." General Speigel said the 18 to 25 age group is the one most susceptible to sexual assault, but Air Force training helps offset that trend.

"Our Air Force is probably the safest spot (for them)," he said. "We take America's society, and all the diversity it brings, and we mold and shape these new recruits in basic military training.

"The result of that, the standards we want and expect for our Air Force men and women, is one that is higher than what is in the civil sector," General Speigel said. "That standard we shouldn't apologize for. That's why we need to work this problem very diligently."

Sexual assault is not just a crime against an individual, but it is also an assault on unit readiness, General Speigel said. "This is a commander's issue," he said. "This deals with unit cohesion. This has to deal with morale and esprit de corps. You have to be able to trust your wingmen, and you shouldn't fear them.

"Leadership has stepped forward ... and said, 'This isn't perfect; we recognize that,'" General Speigel said. "At the end of the day, when we really dedicate ourselves to it, like any Air Force problem, we can fix it; we just have to work at it."

Assessment team to visit MacDill

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. - Gen. John W. Handy, commander, U.S. Transportation Command and Air Mobility Command, has directed assessment teams to visit all 12 AMC installations March 10 through 19 to review each base's sexual assault response programs. AMC has formed three teams, and each will review programs at four bases.

These visits support the Air Force Secretary Dr. James G. Roche and Chief of Staff Gen. John P. Jumper in their direction for each major command to assess the current status of programs.

"Within Air Mobility Command, we must insist that our organization is one where all people's rights are respected, embracing the fact that diversity is truly our greatest strength," General Handy said. "Commanders must be deeply and personally involved in solving diversity issues, specifically, we must commit ourselves to eliminating sexual assault and the climate that fosters it. Additionally, we must promote an environment where our people not only feel free to report assaults, but also know with confidence that perpetrators will be appropriately disciplined."

While the team will not review individual cases or allegations, it will spend about one and a half days at each location reviewing all policies and programs. The team will provide Air Force leadership with an open assessment of sexual assault issues, best practices, problems and challenges.




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