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Home : News : News
NEWS | April 11, 2014

JBSA leaders send stern message about sexual assault

By Steve Elliott Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Public Affairs

Military leaders from throughout Joint Base San Antonio joined together at the Evans Theater Friday to sign a proclamation declaring April 2014 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, with the theme "Live Our Values: Step Up to Stop Sexual Assault."

"Sexual assault is a scourge on all our military services," said Army Lt. Gen. Perry Wiggins, commander, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) and senior Army commander for JBSA-Fort Sam Houston and JBSA-Camp Bullis. "We tend to put a face on our enemy and, in this case, the enemy is us.

"Sexual assault changes people. It scars people," Wiggins continued. "They may not be physical scars, but these scars run deep. We cannot accept people in our military who commit sexual assault upon another person. It is going to take action to combat this systemic problem in the military.

"This is not a time for silence on sexual assault," the general said. "You are part of a team that does not know the meaning of the word 'defeat.' This will not defeat us."

The proclamation ceremony was one of numerous events planned throughout JBSA to highlight the fact that sexual assault is criminal conduct that falls well short of the standards America expects of its men and women in uniform and is a violation of military core values.

"Sexual assault is a crime and Sexual Assault Awareness Month is an annual reminder of the values we live by all year long," said Navy Capt. Gail Hathaway, commander, Navy Medicine Education and Training Command. "We must all be personally committed to a climate of respect to our fellow service members."

Putting a human face on the crime of sexual assault was guest speaker Air Force Master Sgt. Amanda Caldwell, a victim of sexual assault both inside and outside the military, who is now stationed at JBSA-Lackland.

"My story is hard to tell ... but there are thousands more out there suffering in silence." Caldwell began.

The sergeant, who has been a past Fiesta military ambassador and has won numerous awards for excellence throughout her career, noted that she keeps herself detached while talking about her past, mainly as a coping mechanism to help her get through speaking about it.

Caldwell spoke in detail about being assaulted by a trusted family member when she was a teenager working at a Minnesota summer camp. "My whole life changed when this happened. I felt like I had no one to talk to about it," she said.

"Looking back, I see how it changed my attitude and the way I acted. I started drinking and other destructive behavior. I ended up turning myself into the perfect victim."

The sergeant said she was also raped at a college party, again by someone she had trusted. After joining the Air Force and getting stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, Caldwell said she was sexually assaulted in a dormitory by a fellow airman.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me if I reported it," Caldwell said. "In May 2006, a close friend of mine committed suicide. I knew she had had the same thing happen to her with the same airman.

"After all the female airmen in the unit were interviewed, I finally told the truth about what had happened to me. Unfortunately, the male airman took a plea bargain and didn't serve any jail time."

Caldwell said when she was assigned to JBSA-Lackland in 2010, she changed her mind set about her past.

"I looked in the mirror and saw a survivor. I focused on improving myself," she said. "I'm still me and I'm still strong."

Caldwell has put her past experiences into action, becoming a victim advocate for the JBSA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office.

"These events are burned into my memory for the rest of my life," the sergeant said. "To survivors, I hope my story gives you hope."

Brig. Gen. Bob LaBrutta, commander, 502nd Air Base Wing and JBSA, wrapped up the event.

"If you take a look at the perpetrators of these crimes, you usually see they have done this before," he noted. "They build trust and then they betray that trust.

"We had better start now - right here and right now - to get this crime out of our military," LaBrutta said. "We all have to be part of the solution. My challenge is that I want to put the sexual assault response coordinators out of business by eliminating this crime."

The JBSA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office collaborates with all service branch SAPR programs.

JBSA maintains a report hotline at 808-SARC (7272) for all service personnel 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more information about Sexual Assault Awareness Month events, visit