By Sgt. George Smith, 52nd Strategic Signal BattalionMay 9, 2017
Editor's note: This article won first place in the 2nd Theater Signal Brigade 2017 Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Writing Contest.
WIESBADEN, Germany -- The last six years I have dedicated my life to the Army. My duty stations include South Korea, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and Germany. No matter the location, whether at home or overseas, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) has been a constant. Each April the Army stands together in support of eradicating one of the main adversaries we face: sexual harassment and sexual assault. April 2017's SAAPM slogan is "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission." To me, this encapsulates the intent, or reasoning, behind efforts to prevent sexual assault and harassment. My interpretation of the slogan carries two different main ideas - "Protecting Our People" and "Protects Our Mission."
Protecting our people is recognizing the signs of sexual harassment/assault, intervening when those symptoms are present and promoting an environment of trust and respect for all. Protecting the mission is the result of protecting our people and should be uppermost in the mind of all members of the Armed Forces. These two ideas are derived from nearly every Army doctrine, creed or value and are critical to the prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Protecting people is the most fundamental reason for the Army Profession. Each service member has a responsibility to protect and defend both the country they serve and their brothers and sisters in arms. The duty of preventing sexual assault and harassment is blind to branch, position and grade. Units across the Army take part in annual training to clarify terms and learn to identify risk factors that will tip them off to a potential sex crime and help make them proactive in their prevention. After all, trust is the bedrock of the Army profession and sexual crimes, especially within our ranks, are detrimental to trust.
In the Army, we all joined knowing that sacrifices were going to be made. One such sacrifice is putting the mission first, always. I have rarely made it longer than a week without hearing or saying, "mission first" or "mission dictates" when explaining why I was going to miss out on an engagement from my personal life. It is made clear through many different creeds and forms of doctrine. In fact, one of the first things you learn in basic combat training is the Soldier's Creed. In the Soldier's Creed, it says "I will always place the mission first," that is because when a mission is failed people's lives are at risk. It is my thinking that if, I can save one person from harm, then I will do everything I can to see a mission successful. In the case of preventing sexual harassment and assault, you could say that that is the easiest mission I will ever face. At no time, will I fail to do the right thing in the face of a sexual crime and it is my hope that every one of my fellow Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen or Marines share the same idea. If we all succeed in this no-fail mission, the Army will continue to roll along and be stronger than ever. The strength we have as Soldiers comes from comradery and within that endless bond there is no room for sexual harassment.
In closure, SAAPM is a time of awareness that is welcomed each year and always has a positive affect on the men and women who participate. The mantra "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission" is in keeping with the most critical aspect of military service. A deeper look at the phrase might even prove it to be derived from our most precious traditions like, the Oath of Enlistment, the Soldier's Creed, or the Noncommissioned Officer's Creed. Protecting the mission is paramount to the safety of the nation that we all swore to defend and by our efforts to protect the men and women we share a foxhole with, we preserve the highest possibility of completing all of our missions.
2nd Theater Signal Brigade conducts Department of Defense Information Network operations to enable mission command in support of U.S. Army, Joint and multinational operations throughout the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of operation.