JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
From start to finish, the second annual Joint Base San Antonio’s Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Summit at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston April 19 was both unfiltered and candid; it provided a deeper look at sexual misconduct in the Department of Defense and communities surrounding military installations, specifically the San Antonio area.
More than 100 service members, DOD civilians and local community leaders gathered to encourage reporting procedures, provide best practices and exchange ideas for the program as it moves forward to institute a culture of trust.
At the start of the summit, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commander, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), gave his opening remarks.
“I know a lot of you’ve paid attention to the ‘me too’ movement that has developed over the last year,” Buchanan said. “From my perspective, it’s great to see some awareness and accountability popping up more in the civilian world, and we can learn from them. We’ve come a long way and seem to be making progress, but we have a long, long way to go.”
Jodie Garrett, Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, ARNORTH program manager, commented on the importance of senior leaders’ presence and how it helps spark a cultural shift toward building the foundations of trust across the DOD.
“Leadership can be engaged in many different ways during the Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month,” Garrett said. “Not only can their presence at events communicate the importance of SAAPM and the SHARP Program, it also can impact a stronger turnout of participants to help build a culture of trust.”
Tech. Sgt. Asia West, a medic who attended the summit, shared Garrett’s sentiments on senior leaders’ attendance and support of the event.
“It’s important for senior leaders to talk about this issue because it’s not just junior ranking service members who are victims; it can happen to anyone and knowing reporting procedures is only half of the battle,” West said. “Seeing senior leaders at events like today help change the culture because their willingness to learn more about the program help others across the military learn more about it.
“This is a great opportunity to provide our leadership with engaging, realistic and accessible ways to addressing the important subject of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” Garrett added.
As an Aerospace Medical Service Apprentice course supervisor at JBSA-Lackland, West teaches hundreds of medical technician students who are often new to the military lifestyle.
West said it was important for her to have a deeper understanding of the reporting options and procedures, so that she can relay them to her students and hopefully change the culture on reporting incidents.
“The DOD is continuing the prevention drumbeat with the 2018 SAAPM campaign theme ‘Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission,’” Garrett said, “This theme places emphasis on the critical role that everyone plays in preventing sexual assault.”
Garrett reflected on the importance of the summit as the event came to a close
“Every service member – from new recruit to flag officer – must know, understand and adhere to Army core values and standards of behavior in order to eliminate sexual assault and other criminal behaviors. Each member of our Army community has a unique role in preventing and responding to sexual assault,” Garrett said. “Leaderships’ active intervention is a key to the prevention approach, which involves interrupting situations that could lead to sexual assault using both direct and indirect strategies.”