KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- There were three speakers, but one primary message: sexual assault and sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the military.
The Army and Air Force senior leaders who spoke at the April 1 kick-off event for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month also reminded the audience at the Kaiserslautern Military Community Center that while there is increased emphasis on this issue for the month of April, the battle against this crime that affects unit cohesion and readiness is year round.
"Prevention of sexual assault is key for maintaining a ready and resilient military force within the Kaiserslautern Community and the military as a whole," said Col. G. Shawn Wells Jr., Commander of U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz. "It is our job as contributing community leaders to ensure that those around us are self-aware, know who they can ask for help, and allow them to heal and receive any requested help."
Emphasizing "dignity and respect," Brig. Gen. Jon T. Thomas, 86th Airlift Wing Commander at Ramstein Air Base, urged all military and civilian members of the Department of Defense to take care of each other and do the right thing.
The Commander of the 21st Theater Sustainment Command, Maj. Gen. Duane A. Gamble, said "we've made a lot of progress, but we're still not there yet," and cited two statistical factors that would greatly reduce future instances of sexual assault: don't leave a teammate alone; employ the "battle buddy" concept, and responsible use of alcohol.
"In my capacity as a courts-martial convening authority, about 85 percent of all crimes that I see reports on involve alcohol," he said, adding that if leaders continue to educate on the dangers and risks of alcohol abuse, other crimes such as sexual assault would decline.
"We are fortunate to belong to such a community as the KMC," said Andrew McConnell, the USAG Rheinland-Pfalz Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and event organizer, "because we have the privilege of having command teams that make the mission of eradicating sexual assault from our community one of their top priorities."
A mixed crowd of Soldiers, Airmen, civilian employees and family members applauded the remarks and the signing of the proclamations for each organization at the event.
"We urge everyone to reach out to all of the resources that are available in the Kaiserslautern Military Community," added Col. Wells, "such as the Army SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) office at Army Community Service on Pulaski Barracks and the Air Force SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) office on Ramstein. All units have victim advocates who can assist, as well as your health care providers and behavioral health professionals."