By Secretary of the Army Pete GerenOctober 15, 2008
SAPR Training Summit
Embassy Suites/ Alexandria VA
Sept. 9, 2008
Important initiative - this critical initiative...
Our goal is ambitious. Our goal is to erase sexual assault and sexual harassment from the life of the Army and become the model for sexual assault prevention in the nation.
We have far to go: In 2007, the rate of sexual assaults reported in our Army was more than two times the rate of our sister services - we were 2.6 per thousand, the Air Force was 1.6, the Navy was 1.0 and the Marines, 1.1.
That is a disgrace - a disgrace that everyone in the Army must take personally if we are to achieve our goal.
It is a profound disgrace because we are a values-based organization; sexual assault is repugnant to our values, but because we are a values- based organization, we can achieve our goal.
Soldiers do not just wear our values on their sleeve - they are heartfelt and lived daily.
We are not some licentious fraternity at State U, or a beer joint on the highway to Richmond, we are the U.S. Army - And we live our values.
Some say sexual assault is a national problem - a societal problem we cannot do anything about - but we can, because of our values.
As American Soldiers and Army civilians, you are members of a Band of Brothers and Sisters, bound together by common values, and duty and loyalty to each other that set you apart from the rest of society. And a warrior ethos -
You are bound by a selfless commitment to your comrades that outsiders find incomprehensible, a willingness to sacrifice or even die for each other, even a stranger who shares your uniform.
In Iraq, that bond led 19 year old PFC Ross McGinnis to cover a grenade with his body to save the lives of his fellow Soldiers. He was a regular kid - until he put on the uniform.
In Afghanistan, 19 year medic, PFC Monica Brown, threw her body on top of wounded Soldiers to protect them from mortar and small arms fire - and provided them medical care as shrapnel and bullets rained down around them.
(Narrative on Silver Star Recipient PFC Brown)
"The explosion of the fuel tank and cans engulfed the vehicle in an intense fireball. This initiated a planned ambush which commenced after the explosion. The patrol began to take small arms fire, approximately 100 meters away. The enemy fighters then engaged the patrol with mortar fire. The patrol leader commanded his element to return fire. The platoon medic, PFC Monica Brown, immediately dismounted her UAH and without regard for her personal safety moved to the burning UAH amid intense enemy small arms and mortar fire. After arriving at the vehicle, PFC Brown made her initial assessment on two casualties and began to treat them. As she treated the wounded Soldiers, intense enemy small arms and mortar fire continued to impact in the immediate vicinity of PFC Brown's position. On several occasions PFC Brown used her body to shield the casualties from the fire while she continued to treat them. PFC began treatment of the casualties approximately 15 meters from the burning vehicle, where the onboard 60 mm mortar and 5.56 mm ammunition began to explode. Again disregarding her own safety, PFC Brown shielded the casualties with her own body from the shrapnel caused by the exploding ammunition. The patrol moved the wounded Soldiers and PFC Brown to a more protected position. PFC Brown continued treatment of the two wounded Soldiers at the new site as enemy small arms fire began to impact around the new position. Once again, PFC Brown, disregarding her own safety, shielded the wounded with her body."
PFC McGinnis gave his life and PFC Brown offered hers for our Band of Brothers and Sisters.
It is in this context that we must consider the crime of sexual assault, and the enabling offense of sexual harassment - and the duty of by-standers to intervene and protect their comrades from harassment and the risk of assault.
In the Army, there are no by-standers - you are your bother's and sister's keeper.
Over the past seven years, with our Nation at war, over 1800 Soldiers have been punished for sexual assault of their fellow Soldiers, with nearly 500 additional cases pending final disposition.
The Soldiers who committed these crimes betrayed not only their victims, but their Band of Brothers and Sisters who counted on them. They violated a sacred trust and forfeited their claim to the title "Soldier."
And when a Soldier fails to intervene to protect a comrade from harassment or the risk of assault, he or she has forsaken the duty to never leave a fallen comrade and has no place in the Army of Ross McGinnis or Monica Brown.
Sexual assault and harassment are repugnant to everything a Soldier stands for and we all must recognize and condemn them as the crimes they are, and as destructive of the moral fiber that gives our Army its inner strength.
Your Army leadership is joining with Soldiers across the Army in a commitment to eliminate sexual assault and harassment from our ranks.
Our goal is to create a climate of zero tolerance for gender-based misconduct - in attitude, word and deed.
As our Army erased the ugly stain of racism and built our Nation's model organization for color-blind opportunity, so must we succeed in this effort.
The Army staff has developed a comprehensive plan to achieve this goal, with a program built on the bedrock values that define and distinguish our Army and the American Soldier. We launch it today.
The program includes the education and training of our Soldiers to ensure they understand their moral responsibility to intervene to stop sexual harassment and protect their comrades from the risk of sexual assault, and the tactics to intervene effectively.
We will include USMA, ROTC and JROTC and enlisted and NCO training in our program and develop young leaders who better understand their responsibilities to their Band of Brothers and Sisters.
The United States Army is the best in the world at what it does. We are that way because of our values, our Warrior Ethos, and our people. The brothers and sisters of our Army must be able to count on each other, no matter the cost. With the success of this effort, we will more fully align our Army with the values we profess and the ideals lived, even unto death, by Soldiers like Ross McGinnis and Monica Brown.