By Hank MinitrezAugust 27, 2008
LANSDOWNE, Va. (Army News Service) - The I. A.M. Strong campaign will empower Soldiers to "Intervene, Act, and Motivate" to prevent sexual assault, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth O. Preston said.
Preston "soft-launched" the new peer-to-peer training effort with an announcement to young Soldiers attending the 2008 Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers Conference in Lansdowne, Va., Aug. 6.
The I. A.M. Strong campaign will officially be announced Sept. 9 when Secretary of the Army Pete Geren launches the Sexual Assault Prevention Campaign and Strategy, setting the tone for all Soldiers to shift from a response focus to prevention.
"I need your help with an issue that is affecting our Soldiers - sexual assault," Preston told Soldiers attending the BOSS conference.
"We've been on the defensive concerning this crime - and it is a criminal act," Preston said. "The Army was focused on response. Now, we're going on the offensive. We're implementing a new prevention campaign."
Soldiers attending the BOSS conference came away understanding that preventing sexual assault is one of the highest priorities of the Army's most senior leadership. Hearing it straight from the Army's top non-commissioned officer served to underscore that point.
"As the Army moves out front in these efforts, I need you to ask yourself and each other, 'What can we do now to prevent sexual assault''" said Preston. "It's about bringing the team together, being a leader. Looking out for our fellow Soldiers and taking them under your wing to keep them safe."
"Our Army values and the Warriors Ethos should make it a given," said Preston. "But to remind you and all our Army Soldiers, I want to reinforce that it's your duty as a Soldier to:
"When you recognize a threat to a fellow soldier, I expect you to have the personal courage to INTERVENE and prevent sexual assault. As a warrior and a member of a team, you must INTERVENE.
"As a brother, a sister, a fellow Soldier, it is your duty to stand up for your battle buddies, no matter the time or place. Take ACTION. Do what's right. Prevent sexual assault. ACT.
"We are Soldiers, MOTIVATED to engage and keep our fellow Soldiers safe. It is our mission to prevent sexual assault and to live the Army Values and take care of our fellow Soldiers. We are all MOTIVATED to take action, to promote SAPR programs and become advocates within our communities. We are strongest...together."
This change moves the Army's efforts from risk reduction (potential victim focus) to prevention, which is focused on stopping potential offenders and their inappropriate behaviors and actions that may foster sexual assault. Just as Soldiers would not assist the enemy in harming one of our own, Preston said the Army expects that Soldiers will not tolerate the mistreatment or assault of a fellow Soldier.
The I AM Strong program features influential role models, provides peer-to-peer messages and a social network to encourage Soldiers to participate in prevention and accountability behaviors; and offers community workshops, projects, and awards.
In addition to an upcoming sexual assault prevention summit Sept. 9-12, Army G-1, in partnership with commands' I AM Strong programs, will launch a tour this fall featuring live, interactive training. The training focuses on cultural expectations, gender role stereotypes, and unrealistic expectations that contribute to unhealthy intimate and social situations.
The training program addresses issues of dating, sex, and non-stranger rape among young people. It fosters the dialogue to encourage thoughtful, accountable behavior.
Some Soldiers enter into military service with social beliefs that do not align with Army values, officials said, particularly in the area of tolerance of inappropriate attitudes, behaviors or actions of a sexual harassment or sexual assault nature. They said these social beliefs may affect Soldiers' actions as they enter the Army and establish relationships with fellow Soldiers.
Although Soldiers may have experienced a tolerance for these social beliefs before they enlisted, officials said these beliefs are counter to who American Soldiers are, and the faith and trust Soldiers place in each other.
"You're here today because you're already actively engaged in your command and community's efforts to provide better opportunities for Soldiers," said Preston. "I call on you to be an active member of the I AM Strong program. With your support, we can proactively combat this crime that is being committed against our Soldiers."
The goal of the Army Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program is to create a climate where Soldiers live the Army Values, thereby eliminating incidents of sexual assault.
Soldiers must understand that they can report incidents when they occur, without fear, knowing they will receive the help and care they deserve, officials said, adding that leaders must ensure that offenders are brought to justice.
But responding to a sex crime that has already occurred is only one part of the equation, Preston said, adding that preventing it before it even happens is where Soldiers need to focus their efforts.
"Sexual assault goes against our Army Values and Warrior Ethos," Preston said. "I need you to intervene before an assault happens. Have the personal courage to take action and be motivated to make the program a success - take ownership."
More information on the SAPR program can be found at www.sexualassault.army.mil
(Editor's note: Hank Minitrez serves as deputy chief, Public Affairs for the Army G-1 Human Resource Policy Directorate.)