FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Deputy garrison commander Col. Mark Moffatt, acting Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Shawlinski, commander, Directorate of Public Works and members of Army Community Service gave special thanks to Fort Belvoir's unit victim advocates Tuesday for their compassion in helping those who are affected by sexual assault.

Lisa Heck, victim advocate and sexual assault response coordinator for the installation's Family Advocacy Program, said members of FAP work with designated unit victim advocates, which usually number two for every battalion. Together, they see that victims get the support they need in overcoming an attack.

As Sexual Assault Awareness Month comes to a close, everyone attending Tuesday's lunch agreed on the vital role unit victim advocates have in the healing process.

"Each and every one of you is a critical thread in making sure people are taken care of. You are the advocates for those who have been harmed," Moffatt said. "It's a thankless job, but a necessary job. You've demonstrated that every civilian and every Soldier counts."

Angelia Lewis, an information technology specialist with the Joint Personal Property Shipping Office, has served as a unit victim advocate for two years and was one of several invited to the lunch. She is a regular at ACS monthly meetings regarding sexual assault and experienced one case since coming aboard as an advocate.

"In this position, you have to be there in a comforting manner. Being a supportive voice means a lot," Lewis said. "That's the best thing you can do. I remember telling one woman that I'm there to help in any way I can. It was really appreciated."

Capt. Laura Schroeder, of Echo Company, 164th Engineer Battalion, said her group has developed a close working relationship with the unit victim advocate program. She said training related to sexual assault has greatly benefitted new Soldiers.

"It's important to train and educate all these new Soldiers. When it comes time for their first duty assignment, they will know where to get help and what's available to them," Schroeder said. "They will also know how to respond to certain situations and how they can help others."
Shawlinski, who is temporarily filling in for Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane, remarked that this program wasn't around 20 years ago and that it's pleasing to see the Army take an active role in improving the quality of life for its Soldiers.