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Training prepares Air Force members to confront interpersonal violence, suicide

By Robert Goetz | 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs | Nov. 8, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Nearly three years ago, the Air Force contracted with Alteristic Inc. and introduced Green Dot training as the primary prevention education program to reduce power-based interpersonal violence affecting its military and civilian members and families. In 2018, self-directed violence – suicide – was added to the curriculum.

The Air Force’s contract with Alteristic expired at the conclusion of fiscal 2018, but the service’s efforts to reduce interpersonal violence and prevent suicides will continue.

“Green Dot training was the Air Force’s primary training directed at violence prevention and was adopted as a result of the 2015 Sexual Assault and Response Strategy Report,” said Marlo Bearden, 502nd Air Base Wing violence prevention integrator. “It will be replaced with Integrated Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Suicide Prevention Training, which was organized based on the Department of Defense release of the 2014-2016 Sexual Assault Prevention Strategy.”

Violence prevention remains a hallmark of the training.

“The purpose of Integrated SAPR and Suicide Prevention Training is to reduce the number of interpersonal and self-directed violence incidents across the Air Force by providing Air Force members the tools and skills required to prevent incidents before they occur,” Bearden said.

Annual training for service members and DOD civilians also is a constant of the program.

“For those who have not completed training in 2018, mandatory completion is required by Dec. 31,” Bearden said.

Integrated SAPR and Suicide Prevention Training includes three classes: a 90-minute foundational class for Airmen arriving to their first duty station and civilian new hires; a 60-minute refresher class for those who have already taken the foundational class; and a four-hour peer influencer class for those socially influential personnel selected by their commanders to be “unexpected messengers” and “change agents.”

“The training consists of one or two implementers instructing as many as 50 personnel on the culture change, skills in responding to high-risk situations and practical application of reactive and proactive skills to reduce interpersonal and self-directed violence,” Bearden said.

More than 360 Joint Base San Antonio personnel are trained to deliver the 2018 Integrated SAPR and Suicide Prevention curriculum, she said.

Implementers are selected by their unit commanders and attend a four-day training conducted by Alteristic staff. JBSA hosted four of these training sessions last year to ensure the installation had a significant cadre of personnel trained to conduct the training.

Staff Sgt. Zhane Herrera Woodall, 502nd Comptroller Squadron budget analyst, attended her first Green Dot training when it was first rolled out. It was not until she entered implementer training that she realized that interpersonal violence or suicide, directly or by association, affects everyone and that Airmen are expected to learn to get involved in situations when they suspect or know there is abuse.

“As I was joining my new unit here, the current implementer was retiring and saw a passion in me that could help relay the message of Green Dot effectively,” she said. “After taking the four-day course at JBSA-Lackland when the Alteristic trainers came into town, I took the training material more seriously. Everyone in the room who attended the training had time to share how interpersonal violence or suicide awareness is important to them and I realized that this material covered in the Green Dot curriculum is so personal.”

The training is similar to the Air Force’s leadership courses, such as Airman Leadership School, Woodall said.

“In ALS you learn how to handle feedback with difficult subordinates,” she said. “Green Dot teaches us how to be an active bystander in difficult life situations. Students are not so forthcoming with their personal experiences in the classroom and that's okay. Most of the time students show up from different units, they’re strangers and I completely understand that there has to be a level of comfort to create a trusting environment to share an experience like the ones we discuss in the class.”

Tech. Sgt. Randy McGinnis, 502nd Contracting Squadron Medical Services Flight noncommissioned officer in charge, said he hopes people who take the training understand they “don’t have to be a superhero to have an impact.”

“This training gives people the ability to do something when they believe a person needs help,” said McGinnis, who has taught more than 1,800 people as an implementer over the last two years. “The tools provided through this training allows people three different means to do something – distraction, delegation or being direct. This provides them the opportunity to feel safe, while at the same time helping a person that needs help.”

McGinnis said being an implementer gives him a “great sense of accomplishment.” He called the training “the foundation for changing a culture where people seemed to turn a blind eye because they thought someone else would step in and get involved.”

”That mentality created an environment that allowed more opportunities for perpetrators to commit sexual assault because people wouldn’t get involved and provided a greater opportunity for individuals thinking about committing suicide to think nobody cared or was willing to assist,” he said.

“Now I believe that instead of just having a zero tolerance policy, this training enables people to realize that more people are paying attention to inappropriate situations and are not going to sit back. They are going to step up and are more likely to do something.”

The involvement of everyone to prevent sexual assaults and suicides reflects how the Air Force is going to be effective in preventing incidents in both areas.

“That increases the potential for pre-emptively stopping sexual assaults, suicides and interpersonal violence situations,” McGinnis said.