Soldiers with the 181st Multi-Functional Training Brigade (MFTB) completed the brigade’s second annual Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month Ruck March on April 29, 2022, in Sparta Wis.
The ruck march gave Soldiers the opportunity to show their support and raise awareness for sexual assault survivors, as well as collect donations for charity organizations that work with survivors.
“First and foremost, I hope our presence in the community helps spark conversations about sexual assault and raises awareness,” Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Settles, the 181st MFTB Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, said. “We can work together to help reduce these numbers by showing survivors that we are here to support them.”
The event took over six months of planning, which included coordination between Settles and a number of organizations throughout the city of Sparta.
“When we started initial planning, we met with local community members to begin identifying goals we hoped to achieve,” Settles explained. “Once we set our goals, we began reaching out to the community for support. We were actually still adding community partners to our event into the second week of April.”
Along with the Eagle Brigade, Brighter Tomorrows, Gundersen Health System, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Sparta Police Department, Sparta Ambulance, the Sparta Fire Department, the Fort McCoy Advocacy Program and the Fort McCoy Military & Family Life Consultants participated in the event.
Like the ruck march, raising awareness for survivors of sexual assault and harassment has been one of the main priorities for the Eagle Brigade. The brigade ran a 30-day social media campaign, had a station for participation in the Clothesline Project and hosted other similar events.
“I’m proud of the entire brigade for coming together to raise awareness and action towards combating sexual assault and harassment within our society and our ranks,” Col. RJ Hughes, the commander of the 181st MFTB, said. “Prevention of sexual assault and harassment requires all of us to stay vigilant, work together and accept nothing less than dignity and respect for all.”
Hughes hopes that the ruck march will act as a springboard for the rest of the year when it comes to raising awareness.
“The Eagle Brigade has a strong sense of community and taking care of those around us, so we believe that these donations, combined with the awareness and importance of preventing sexual assault and harassment that this ruck march has hopefully raised, will keep the momentum that each April generates going,” he said. “It’s important that everyone understands that this is not just an April issue, but an every day issue.”
With the ruck march, and April, wrapped up, Settles has one more message to the survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
“Here is a quote from Alex Elle that will hopefully speak to someone: ‘You're not a victim for sharing your story. You are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.’”