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Fairchild’s April SAPR Focus: Dragons Can Be Killed

The Fairchild Air Force Base headquarters building will be lit up teal for the month of April in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Janelle Patino/Released)

The Fairchild Air Force Base headquarters building will be lit up teal for the month of April in support of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Janelle Patino)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE-Wash. -- This is my second April in command where we pause for a moment to emphasize our efforts to eradicate sexual assaults in our military. Certainly, this is not just a focus for April, but warrants 365 and 24/7 vigilance to battle back the scourge within our ranks that continues to corrode our trust. I have three reflections looking back over my time in command on this pivotal issue.

First, it simply comes down to a promotion of dignity and respect.

If Airmen respect each other, there is no breaking down of barriers, there is no severing of trust, there is no igornirng of "no"...in other words, there is no chance of sexual assault occurring. I respect each and every Airman, and require you to do the same. We share a common bond...we have a common bloodline. We are the long blue line.

In a time that our military faces significant financial hurdles and continuing tensions around the world, our leadership from the Chief of Staff of the Air Force on up must balance their time on this pivotal issue with so many other significant issues. The Secretary of Defense, for example, meets weekly on our progress to eradicate sexual assault and our Commander In Chief devotes considerable time as well to the issue. Yet the problem still exists. Even when there are so many worldwide issues demanding our vigilance, we find ourselves with a greater need to watch out for each other. Of the countless things we cannot control, we can control how we treat each other--person to person, Wingman to Wingman.

As we gathered together for the March Women's History Day Lunch, I opined that it was not until 1976 that women were fully integrated into our military. I lamented that had we had the same focus and intensity on promoting a culture of dignity and respect between the sexes since 1976, we likely would not have had the problems we encountered in BMT and throughout our ranks today. At least we get it now, and are actively building a culture here that reinforces dignity and respect.

Second, beyond dignity and respect, I would add that the biggest contributor to this continuing problem is the misuse of alcohol. While I cannot comment on specific cases, I can offer that the misuse of alcohol remains a continuing trend item that contributes to an environment conducive to sexual assault. Inebriation decreases a person's ability to consent, but it should not decrease a person's ability to be a good Wingman and break the chain of events that may lead to a sexual assault Airmen rarely socialize alone and there are often several points in time in past sexual assault cases when Wingmen could have intervened to get inebriated parties home or keep an incident from happening. As Airmen, whether on the ground or in the air, we know how to protect each other's "six" and this is truly the only way we can break this cycle of assault. We are not an Army of one, we never have been--we are a flight of Wingmen. Yes we are!

Finally, I believe in my Wing and my Wingmen. In my Change of Command speech back in August 2012, I spoke to my belief in you. After 20 months in command, my belief in my Airmen to soar over every obstacle has only grown. I truly believe we can build upon our promotion of respect and dignity and eradicate sexual assaults on this installation. G. K. Chesterton once remarked. "Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed." In other words, Chesterton asserts that society's dragons cannot be killed because only in fairy tales does that occur. Knowing my phenomenal Airmen, I vehemently disagree with this assertion. Yes, I truly believe that dragons can be killed and we can most certainly slay the demon of sexual assault causing dissension within our ranks. Respect and dignity, responsible use of alcohol and solidifying a Wingmen culture will ensure we as a service proverbially live happy ever after. I believe in you, I believe in my Airmen, and I certainly believe in Team Fairchild.