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McChord Airmen suspend ops to focus on eliminating sexual assaults

Published: 12:07PM July 3rd, 2013
130625-F-GL802-002

Airman 1st Class Jacob Jimenez

Col. Wyn Elder addresses the need for reporting options for victims of sexual assault June 25.

Airmen and civilians across Joint Base Lewis-McChord stood down normal operations June 24 and 25 to emphasize the need to eliminate sexual assault in the Air Force. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down day is a Department of Defense initiative to reiterate zero tolerance of sexual assault and focus on fostering a climate of dignity and respect.

“If we are going to eliminate sexual assaults, we have to start by improving our culture and climate,” said Col. Wyn Elder, 62nd Airlift Wing commander. “We’ve got to start now — it’s up to you to create a culture in your workplace where you and your co-workers can be comfortable.”

The down day on June 24 took place to accommodate shift workers, while June 25 brought together the rest of the Airmen and civilians. Both days began with a commander’s call.

“The problem is getting worse and what we’re doing now is not working,” Elder said. “That’s why we’re here to step back and look at how we can collectively do a better job at stamping out sexual assault.”

During the commander’s call, Elder spoke about the purpose of the down day, reporting and investigation process, and Airmen’s role in eliminating sexual assault.

Elder was followed by speakers from the McChord Field Equal Opportunity, 62nd Airlift Wing staff judge advocate and Sexual Assault Response Coordinator offices, who explained topics ranging from how sexual assaults affect unit morale and mission effectiveness to resources for victim-survivors and consequences of offenders.

“All this information might have been repetitive to some people, but to me, I learned something new,” said 2nd Lt. Mayra Gomez, 62nd Comptroller Squadron financial services officer. “When you put things into perspective, it really opens your eyes and it changes the way you think about things.”

After the commander’s call, Airmen and civilians broke off into their respective units to role play scenarios and discuss bystander intervention strategies. They were also educated on reporting procedures and agencies available to provide assistance.

“It’s important for us to come together and discuss our role and responsibilities in eliminating sexual violence from our ranks,” said Heather Van Mill, 62nd AW SARC. “When we stand down, we actively demonstrate our commitment to changing our culture and eliminating sexual assaults from our service, once and for all.”

For more information on SAPR program or resources available, visit http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/sapr/index.asp.