Master Sgt. Nathan Clark is the Operations Superintendent assigned to the 612th Air Operations Center and is one of three people within 12th Air force who are active Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) representatives under the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program. The SARP program is designed to support to victims of sexual assault. Its basis is education and outreach and making people aware of what’s out there to help victims of sexual assault. Master Sgt. Clark has been a SARC representative for four and a half years and has been supporting it for five years.
Question: What made you become involved in the SAPR program?
Clark: I became involved when I was deployed and I had a troop that was sexually assaulted. She came to me and wanted help and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to get her the proper support and help that she needed. After talking to a couple of people I finally got a hold of the SARC. Going through this process I felt that I was very naive to the programs that were available. So I made a promise to myself that I would be a solution to the problem. Right now my personal goal is focusing on the educational portion of the SAPR program, making people aware of the program and the resources available to the victims of sexual assault.
Question: As compared to other units I’ve been assigned to it seems like the 12th Air Force is more proactive than others when it comes to the SAPR program?
Clark: A lot of it has to do with Lt. Gen. Rand being very passionate about the program. And a lot of it is his devotion to the program; he puts a lot of focus on it. He has worked with us a lot, on the (SAPR) days we’ve had, we’ve had two down days at 12th Air Force. And, he supports the base SARC, Vickie J. Ryder and speaks to her on a regular basis. So a lot of it is driven by him and the 355th Fighter Wing Commander, Col. Kevin Blanchard, he is also very supportive of the program as well.
Question: What types of the people are involved with the SAPR program?
Clark: There’s Vickie Ryder is the base SARC, but a majority of us who are really involved with the program are retired senior non-commissioned officers and field grade officers. It’s the people with the most experience who are the most active with it. Those of us who have been doing it for a while are very proactive within the program and doing the academic outreach. Like, I teach classes, and it’s the same group of people who are constantly teaching the base classes. And I think that comes from a combination of experience and maturity. But overall we have a great presence on this base. We are one of the best in the Air Force. Our cadre here is one of the largest across the entire Air Force.
Question: How do you become a SARC representative?
Clark: First of all your commander and supervisor must agree to allow you to support the program, because it takes a lot of time especially if you’re involved with a survivor. In those instances they need to be supportive because you could miss a lot of work. There was a time in Korea when I was out of work for 3-4 days straight because I was working with someone who had an issue. But my leadership was very supportive of it.
Additionally, there’s a 40 hour class you must attend and SARC has to recommend you as well. Usually the SARC here will sit with you a few times to see where your motives are. And they also look at how many hours you’ve been involved in the program. So over the course of a year, once you’ve had all the requirements you get submitted and it goes up to Department of Defense where there’s a board that is overseen by a Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton and he’s the one who will certify you.
Question: What is covered in the course?
Clark: It’s a one week course that covers everything from first meeting a survivor, all the way to getting those help and supporting them during the trial. It goes over all the reporting procedures, the legal process, where to go for help and support, and all the do’s and don’ts of the program. It covers the entire program pretty in-depth.
Question: Why is it important for Airmen know about the SAPR program?
Clark: For two reasons; one is for people who would like to volunteer for it and who want to get involved in the program and two is to make people aware of the program. We want people to know where to go for support and help.
Question: How has being a SARC representative helped you as a leader?
Clark: It has changed how I view situations. Before I became a SARC representative I would hear a lot of negative quips about the program or about people who were involved with this program and I was negative about it. When my young troop was a victim of sexual assault, I felt that she didn’t get the support she needed. But being part of the SAPR program has changed my entire perception of what it’s really about. I use this to push information to my Airmen and by teaching classes it shows my Airmen that I care.
Question: What is the most rewarding thing about being a SARC representative?
Clark: The fact that someone who was the victim of a sexual assault can get the help they need to heal and become an active and productive member of the Air Force community is the part that is the most rewarding.
Question: What advice would you give supervisors about increasing awareness about sexual assault and prevention?
Clark: Become involved in your Airmen’s lives. When I came in we had finance people and education people. We had people who were there to help us, guide us and support us. Now it seems like everything is digital and we are expected to do everything online on our own. But what we’re seeing is a real disconnect with younger Air Force members, because they have grown up in a social media world. Texting, E-mail, and other forms of non-face-to-face communication has become the norm and a lot of times we don’t know what’s going on. If a supervisor is not involved in their Airmen’s lives they may not know if something is wrong with them. You need to make that one on one time for your Airmen so that you can know what their needs are.
Question: How can Airmen get involved in the SAPR program, is there a rank restriction?
Clark: There is no rank restriction. The first step is to get a hold of Vickie Ryder and let her know that you would like to become part of the program. From that point she will guide you in what you need to do.
Anyone wanting to get involved in the SAPR program should contact Vickie Ryder at (520)228-7272.