JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas-- From start to finish, the 2nd annual Joint Base San Antonio's Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Summit here was both unfiltered and candid; it provided a deeper look at sexual misconduct in the Department of Defense and communities surrounding military installations, specifically the San Antonio area.

More than 100 service members, DoD civilians and local community leaders gathered here for the summit April 19 to encourage reporting procedures, provide best practices and exchange ideas for the program as it moves forward to institute a culture of trust.

At the start of the summit, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commander, U.S. Army North (Fifth Army), gave his opening remarks.

"Thanks to all of you for being here. We have people here from all services Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Cost Guard, civilians, and friends," said Buchanan. "I know a lot of you've paid attention to the 'me too' movement that has developed over the last year. And, frankly from my perspective, it's great to see some awareness and accountability popping up more in the civilian world, and we can learn from them. Generally, they have a lot to learn from [the military] as well."

He continued, "We've come a long way and seem to be making progress, but we really have a long, long way to go."

Jodie Garrett, the Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program Manager for Senior Mission Command and ARNORTH, commented on the importance of senior leaders presence and how it helps spark a cultural shift toward building the foundations of trust across the DoD.

"Leadership can be engaged in many different ways during [the Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month]. Not only can their presence at events communicate the importance of SAAPM and the SHARP Program, it also can impact a stronger turnout of participants to help build a culture of trust," said Garrett.

Tech. Sgt. Asia West, a medic who attended the summit, shared Garrett's sentiments on senior leaders' attendance and support of the event.

"It's important for senior leaders to talk about this issue because it's not just junior ranking service members who are victims; it can happen to anyone and knowing reporting procedures is only half of the battle," said West. "Also, seeing senior leaders at events like today help change the culture because senior leaders' willingness to learn more about the program help others across the military to want to learn more about it."

"This is a great opportunity to provide our leadership with engaging, realistic and accessible ways to addressing the important subject of sexual assault and sexual harassment," added Garrett.

As an Aerospace Medical Service Apprentice course supervisor at Lackland Airforce Base in Texas, West teaches hundreds of medical technician students who are often new to the military lifestyle.

West said it was important for her to have a deeper understanding of the reporting options and procedures, so that she can relay them to her students and hopefully change the culture on reporting incidents.

Garrett said, "The Department of Defense (DoD) is continuing the prevention drumbeat with the 2018 SAAPM campaign theme "Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission." This theme places emphasis on the critical role that everyone plays in preventing sexual assault.

April marks the 14th annual SAAPM, which highlights the work of the Army's SHARP program. Although this was a joint base event, the Army was the lead service for this year's summit at JBSA. The Army's theme this year is "Shaping a culture of trust."

Garrett reflected on the importance of the summit as the event came to a close

"Every service member, from new recruit to flag officer, must know, understand, and adhere to Army core values and standards of behavior in order to eliminate sexual assault and other criminal behaviors; each member of our Army community has a unique role in preventing and responding to sexual assault," said Garrett. "Leaderships' active intervention is a key to the prevention approach, which involves interrupting situations that could lead to sexual assault using both direct and indirect strategies."

Garrett continued, "April presents an opportunity for the SHARP Program to arrange events where leadership can come together to discuss challenges and best practices that move prevention efforts forward."