FORT BENNING, Ga., (July 10, 2013) -- From the company commander's perspective, upholding Army policies and protecting the safety of all Soldiers is top priority.

Capt. Kip Randall, who served as commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Maneuver Center of Excellence, from March 2011 to Sept. 2012, said when sexual assault and rape incidents are reported, the commander is the first leader in the chain of command to consider the legal process associated with the reported incident.

"(The commander has) a legal responsibility to protect the victim if the accused is in his or her company, (the commander) also has to make sure the process is followed for those allegations," Randall said.

Randall said reported incidents under his prior command occurred in isolated settings. He also said alcohol sometimes plays a factor and makes high-risk situations more harmful.

Under any circumstance, Randall said, a commander should not pass judgment on a victim and should follow a sexual assault victim assistance checklist. He said the top priority is to make sure the victim is safe.

"The company commander has a responsibility to his Soldiers in situations that involve sexual assault to ensure the victim is always treated with dignity and respect, while the accused right's are also upheld, so the legal process and investigation can go forward," Randall said. "While a Soldier who is accused is always innocent until proven guilty, they still have to be flagged while they are going through the investigation process. The commander will issue a "no contact order" to protect the victim, but a no contact order should not (restrict) the accused's rights."

Randall said Soldiers who witness incidents also have a responsibility to intervene.

"A witness is always expected to intervene and they're supposed to look out for their battle buddy, so that could mean if someone is making an inappropriate joke, (they should tell) them to stop." Randall said. "In incidents where the situation can't be handled by intervention, a witness needs to report it."

Randall said those accused of rape or sexual assault could face court-martial. If convicted, the range of punishment would rest with court martial panel.

Mandatory SHARP training is conducted with Soldiers through face-to-face interactions with a sexual assault and rape coordinator and through Team-Bound training to address various scenarios of sexual assault.

Randall said the commander's responsibility is to ensure each Soldier is warned of the intolerance of rape and sexual assault in a unit.

"The climate that you set within your company is that there is zero tolerance for this in the Army and in (the) company," he said.