Luke Air Force Base held a stand-down day on June 24 to focus on sexual assault prevention and the importance of treating fellow Airmen with dignity and respect.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel issued a directive to each branch of service to use the stand-down to mitigate an ongoing trend of sexual misconduct across the Defense Department. He directed “purposeful and direct engagement by commanders” so every member of the armed forces understands they are accountable for fostering a climate where sexist behaviors, sexual harassment and sexual assault are not tolerated, condoned or ignored.
Activities at Luke included several commander’s calls throughout the day by Brig. Gen. Mike Rothstein, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and small-group discussions conducted at the unit level.
The objective of the stand down was to improve “buy-in” at all levels that, while there has been improvement over the years in many respects, the Air Force still has some significant problems when it comes to sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault, the general said.
“I ask you to focus on moral courage,” Rothstein told several hundred Airmen gathered at each session. “Have the moral courage to stand up, to stop, to report, to address problems in our ranks. This is our house. It’s our problem, and we’ve got to own it.”
In addition to the commander’s calls, each squadron or agency conducted their own training.
The career development unit, part of the 56th Force Support Squadron, had group discussions about various scenarios and questions concerning sexual assault awareness.
“Having the group discussions brought us closer together and helped make us more aware of what’s going on, not only in the Air Force, but within our unit,” said Staff Sgt. Kassandra Parot, 56th Force Support Squadron career development technician. “It also gave us some different perspectives on the problem of sexual assault.”
To put the issue into context, Rothstein shared some statistics during his commander’s calls.
According to a 2012 DOD report, 6.1 percent of servicewomen and 1.2 percent of servicemen indicated they had experienced unwanted sexual contact that year. A 2010 Air Force/Gallup survey showed that the incidence of sexual assault in the Air Force is 3.4 percent among women and .5 percent among men, and is higher among younger, junior enlisted Airmen.
Studies also show that alcohol plays a large role in many assaults. Of 790 sexual assaults reported in the Air Force in 2012, 75 percent of them involved alcohol, and a 2002 report indicated that approximately 70 percent of undetected rapists use alcohol to victimize their targets.
“We need to focus on taking better care of ourselves and our wingmen,” Rothstein said. “Focus on making smart choices by not putting yourself into vulnerable positions and not leaving your wingmen in vulnerable positions. I need Airmen to focus on having the moral courage to stop sexual assaults.”
“We can and we should be better than we are,” Rothstein added. “We’re moving in the right direction, but we’re not done yet. I need your help to get us there.”