"I. A.M. Strong" Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault Prevention Summit
April 15, 2009
April 6, 2009
We've got a problem in our Army. It's a problem we share with all society. Sexual assault is not an Army problem. It's a national problem. In fact, it's a problem all over the world, but it's a problem that we in the Army are going to address because in the Army we are different. We're a values-based organization, and we're going to accomplish what General Rochelle laid out for us just a moment ago. We're going to eradicate sexual assault from the life of our Army, and we are going to do it because we are a values-based organization. That's what sets us apart from the rest of society. That's the world which you lead, and I want to thank you for your service and thank you for living those Army values and thank you for being here today and being a part of this historic effort.
In jarring contrast to our Army values and the Warrior Ethos that bind our soldiers together, our soldiers and civilians together, since 9/11 nearly 2,000 American soldiers have been punished for sexually assaulting a fellow soldier, nearly 2,000 American soldiers. With our Army at war that means that's an American soldier attacking an American soldier, blue on blue, and sexual assault is our nation's most underreported crime. Experts estimate that only one in five sexual assaults is even reported. That's not just within the Army. That's on the outside but we assume it's true in the Army and if that is true those 2,000 reports mean since 9/11, 10,000 American soldiers have been assaulted by a fellow soldier, 10,000 American soldiers.
Sixty years ago we began down the long road to end racial discrimination and root out the remnants of racism from the ranks of our Army, bring our attitude, our words and our deeds in line with Army values, and we succeeded. Today in equal opportunity, our Army is truly the model for our nation. We are not perfect, but our Army stands as our nation's model for the color-blind society that Martin Luther King dreamed of, a society in which people are judged not by the color of their skin but the content of their character.
Last year, with the launch of the "I. A.M. Strong" Campaign, we committed to the same sort of historic change within our Army with regards to sexual assault that you accomplished with regards to the ugly stain of racism that lingered for way too long in our values-based organization.
Last year, with the launch of the "I. A.M. Strong" Campaign, we began down a long road that won't be easy. It won't happen overnight, but it's going to be accomplished one step at a time, one soldier at a time, one civilian at a time, each and every one of you leading by example. We are committed to eradicate sexual harassment and sexual assault from the life of our Army and as with equal opportunity, your Army is going to become the model for sexual assault prevention in the United States of America.
Sexual assault is a crime everywhere, but blue on blue, it is that and much more. It is an assault on the core values of every American soldier. Sexual assault is repugnant to everything a soldier stands for. American soldiers are bound together by Army values of duty and loyalty that sets you apart from the rest of society by a selfless commitment to each other that outsiders really find incomprehensible, a willingness to sacrifice or even die for each other if that other person wears your uniform.
In Iraq, that bond led 19-year-old soldier Ross McGinnis to cover a grenade with his body to save the lives of his fellow soldiers. His mother, father and his two sisters accepted the Medal of Honor on Ross's behalf.
In Afghanistan, that bond led 19-year-old medic PFC Monica Brown to throw her body on top of wounded soldiers to protect them from mortar and small arms fire, and she provided them life-saving medical advice as shrapnel and small arms fire rained down all around her. She received the Silver Star for her valor. PFC McGinnis gave his life, and Monica Brown offered her life for her and their band of brothers and sisters.
Since 9/11, nearly 9000 women have served in Kuwait and Afghanistan and Iraq. 130 women have received awards for valor, including two Silver Stars. Lee Ann Hester and I mentioned a moment ago Monica Brown. 165 have received Purple Hearts. 49 women have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. 535 have been wounded. On the battlefield today, we are a band of brothers and sisters. It is in this context that we attack the crime of sexual assault and the enabling offense of sexual harassment and affirm the duty of every soldier, demand that every soldier intervene to protect their comrades, their brothers and their sisters, from harassment and the threat of sexual assault.
In our Army there are no bystanders. Every soldier is his or her brothers' and sisters' keeper. That's the Army of Ross McGinnis. That's the Army of Monica Brown. That's your Army. The brothers and sisters of our Army must be able to count on each other where ever they are, battlefield or barracks, maybe even in a bar, on post or off and when ever: on duty or off duty, whatever the cost. That's our United States Army.
And as we did with racism we will create a climate that does not condone gender-based misconduct in thought, word or deed, and we will become fully the band of brothers and sisters that our values demand. We will succeed in this effort because soldiers take care of soldiers. You strip away everything else about our Army, that's what soldiers do. Soldiers take care of soldiers. We've set the highest standards for ourselves in sexual assault investigation and prosecution as well.
Our goal is to become the nation's gold standard when it comes to sexual assault investigation and prosecution. Our criminal investigation command and our Judge Advocate General have taken new measures to support victims and hold offenders accountable. We've hired national experts in the fields of prosecution and investigation. You're going to hear from Ms. Munch a little later today. Additionally, we've added 30 special investigators and 15 prosecutors to our investigation and prosecution team. We've hired 35 additional examiners at our investigation laboratory and we've funded specialized training for our prosecutors and we've established a mobile investigation training team to train our CID battalions all across our Army.
The goal for our Army when it comes to investigation and prosecution is to be the very best. With the help of highly qualified experts we've borrowed from the practices of many of the large urban areas in our country where they create special victims unit, special crimes units and our goal, with what we're doing in investigation and prosecution, when people talk about sexual assault, prosecution and investigation they are not going to look to Chicago or New York or Dallas or Los Angeles. They're going to look to the United States Army as setting the standard for investigation and prosecution when it comes to sexual assault.
Last September, we launched the Army's "I. A.M. Strong" Campaign, and I want to thank each and every one of you for what you've done over the course of the last half year to bring us to where we are today. This campaign begins with committed leadership, leadership from the lowest ranks to the highest ranks, soldier and civilian, enlisted, NCO and officer. Every single one of us in our Army is going to have to take this effort to heart. The chief and I encourage every one of you to commit personally to this initiative. We will become the band of brothers and sisters that our values demand but I can tell you it won't be easy.
All the forces of modern culture are fighting against what we are trying to accomplish in our Army. The young men and women that come into our Army come into our Army bombarded with all sorts of messages that are contrary to Army values, come in with attitudes toward sexuality, attitudes towards the way they treat members of the opposite sex that have no place in our Army. Every day, we're going to have to take this upon ourselves to attack this problem that will never be fixed. It will only get better when every one of us considers it a daily mission, and we will get there. I'm confident we will get there.
Army values perform Army miracles. Our Army values have made our organization, the United States Army, unique in our country, unique in the world, and it is because of Army values that we will succeed in this. We will become the band of brothers and sisters that our values demand. Thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your service. God bless every one of you.