NELLIS AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — Rape is a dirty word. But it’s not the word that is dirty, it’s the action.
At a U.S. Air Force Warfare Center reporting unit, one Airman is going above and beyond to combat this violation to the Air Force, its Airmen and its mission. And the service’s leadership has taken notice.
“He is the epitome of an Airman,” said Maj. Gen. Gina Grosso, Air Force sexual assault prevention and response program director “He is doing his part and is comfortable doing it.”
But it’s not only Senior Airman Jordan Peterson, an electronic warfare application programmer assigned to the 453rd Electronic Warfare Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, who is receiving praise for his efforts, his command is lauded as well.
“The fact that his commander allows him time away from his primary mission lets me know that he understands that it’s every Airman’s responsibility to eliminate sexual assault in the Air Force,” said Grosso. “By allowing Peterson to help out at basic training he is making the whole Air Force better. Airman Peterson and his commander are role models for the Airman-commander relationship and how it should work”
Peterson doesn’t go out of his way to be praised or to fill another bullet on his enlisted performance report.
“I have seen the effects a sexual assault can have,” said Peterson. “I’m personally tied to the issue and wanted to make an impact.”
Though not every Airman is directly affected by a sexual assault, Peterson felt the need to approach the subject.
“Being a sexual assault prevention and response instructor wasn’t an opportunity for me, it was a necessity,” said Peterson.
Peterson has been teaching the Accessions 2 course at JBSA to students in technical training for the last six months. The goal of the course is to build on the initial Accessions course taught at basic military training that lays the baseline of terminology used to address sexual assualt and the Air Force’s stance on the subject.
This course teaches the new minds coming into the Air Force. They bring with them different perspectives, preconceived notions and different backgrounds, said Peterson.
“There is almost always one person in every group that still believes clothes put people at risk,” said Peterson. “I get to educate incoming Airmen at the frontlines.”
Peterson’s fervor for attacking this touchy subject is music to the ears of leadership.
“When you get groups of people together you are talking to at least one survivor, whether you know it or not,” said Grosso. “I am excited that someone as junior as Airman Peterson takes the time out to teach a course because he wants to take care of fellow Airmen.”
One of Peterson’s most useful approaches to teaching is blending in with his students.
“Before each class I remove my (uniform) blouse and set it in another room before the students come into the class,” said Peterson. “I sit in a seat where someone’s things are and at least one person will always talk to me.”
Integrating himself into the group allows students to open up before he is introduced as their next instructor.
“They see me as one of their own and begin speaking openly,” said Peterson. “If we approach such a sensitive topic, the last thing we need is the barrier of rank and formalities. I do what I can to leave as little perceived differences between myself and the members in the seats.”
That informality helps guide new Airmen to speaking frankly about the subject, which is one of the aims of the SAPR program.
“We have a world-class response system to take care of victims,” said Grosso. “We want the victims to feel comfortable coming forward to get them the help they need and prosecute the offenders.”
Peterson is doing his part but he is not the only one who has the ability to affect this big subject.
“Every Airman is accountable for their climate,” said Grosso. “The young men and women coming in the Air Force today are extraordinary and we are fortunate that such talented people want to serve. There is no doubt they will lead the Air Force to an institution free from sexual assault.”