JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas --
At an April 5 ceremony at the Medical Education and Training Campus Academic Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, four JBSA leaders signed a proclamation marking Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month and urged active-duty members and government civilians to take action against sexual assault and to stand up for sexual assault survivors.
Signing the proclamation were Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, JBSA and 502nd Air Base Wing commander; Rear Adm. Rebecca McCormick-Boyle, Navy Medicine Education Training and Logistics Command commander; Brig. Gen. John Hashem, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) Reserve Affairs deputy commanding general; and Cmdr. Benjamin Golightly, Coast Guard Cryptologic Unit Texas commanding officer.
JBSA leaders who spoke at the ceremony focused on the 2017 theme of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, “Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission,” and the JBSA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program message of “Unafraid . . . To Speak Up . . . To Step In . . . To Protect!”
McCormick-Boyle said stopping the instances of sexual assault in the military starts with JBSA members taking action and speaking up against it.
“Sadly, we’ve not eradicated sexual assault,” McCormick-Boyle said. “Sexual assault continues and it affects lives and lives are forever altered. But I do believe a different reality is possible, but it’s only possible through raising our collective voice and taking collective action.”
McCormick-Boyle said if an active-duty member or government civilian sees a situation in which a sexual assault is or could be occurring, they should step in and intervene. In addition, she said JBSA members should lend their support in helping sexual assault survivors recover from their ordeal and to vigorously pursue justice for the survivors.
“Sexual assault prevention and response requires action on the part of every servicemember, every civilian employee and every person at every level of your organization,” McCormick-Boyle said. “We, each of us, represent a critical link in the chain to ending this crime across the military and across our community.”
The ceremony included remarks from Staff Sgt. Noah Lubben, a sexual assault survivor and victim advocate. Lubben, 59th Medical Specialty Squadron cardiopulmonary technician at JBSA-Lackland, spoke about being sexually assaulted while he was on duty in an AC-130 aircraft when he was stationed at Hurlburt Field, Fla., and his decision to report the incident.
Lubben said after the incident occurred he mentioned it in a briefing to the aircraft commander, who along with the crew members laughed it off.
He talked about the incident with his wife, Kassie, his wingman, who encouraged him to report it and a friend who advised him not to saying anything about it because it could ruin his career. After weighing the pros and cons with Kassie, Lubben decided to report the incident as unrestricted, in which law enforcement officials are notified.
Lubben said he was met with resistance and hostility from members of his unit after reporting the incident. While it was a hard thing to do, Lubben said he has no regrets.
“I weighed heavily on my decision,” he said. “It took me three weeks to work up the courage to report it. It literally came down to doing what was right versus doing what was popular. Sexual predators love when they are part of a culture that people don’t stick up for their own. We have to have Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines who are not afraid to stand up for their core values. They have to be unafraid to correct inappropriate behavior. They have to be unafraid to stand up for what is right at the cost of being unpopular or uncomfortable. You can’t care about doing what’s right to be liked.”
In her closing remarks, Pringle stressed to JBSA members the importance of looking out for one another when confronting the issue of sexual assault in the military.
“What you do for our nation is too important to be affected, to be sullied by this crime of sexual assault,” Pringle said. “Protecting our people protects our mission – be unafraid.”
After showing a JBSA video that encourages active-duty and civilian members to be “unafraid” in preventing or reporting sexual assault, Pringle continued her remarks.
“If you are in this room I know you are unafraid,” Pringle said. “But there might be a time when you start to doubt yourself and you start to wonder, is this the time when I step in? If you are in JBSA, it’s all about taking care of each other, doing what’s right and being unafraid.”
During the ceremony, several JBSA members were recognized for their efforts in preventing sexual assault and for helping sexual assault survivors, including the Shelley Botello Compassionate Award, which was given to Bill Hall, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at JBSA-Lackland.
Botello, who passed away last year, was the clinical supervisor for the Sexual Assault Response/Forensic Team at Methodist Speciality and Transplant Hospital in San Antonio. She provided sexual assault forensic examinations for sexual assault survivors, including military members, and was involved in the JBSA SAPR program, training sexual assault response coordinators and victim advocates.