Military News

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Face of Defense: Sexual Assault Response Worker Earns DoD Award

From a North Dakota National Guard News Release

BISMARCK, N.D., April 30, 2015 – For her outstanding service in support of North Dakota's military members, Heather Mattson was named the 2015 Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year for the entire National Guard.

Mattson, of Jamestown, North Dakota, was congratulated last week by Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, during an April 20 video teleconference here at Fraine Barracks, the North Dakota National Guard's headquarters facility.

Mattson has served as the North Dakota National Guard’s SARC since September 2012.

"I applaud Ms. Heather Mattson's selection as the 2015 Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year,” Grass said. “Her tremendous efforts and innovative approaches working with community agencies and service providers greatly aided in the recovery of sexual assault survivors and contributed to fostering a culture of dignity and trust within the National Guard. Her dedication, professionalism and passion epitomize the essence of the National Guard as a community-based organization that vigorously advocates for survivors and the Guard community."

National Recognition

Six awards are presented annually to SARCs across the country in each military branch and reserve component, which includes the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and National Guard. The recognition is given in April to coincide with the nationally observed Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

As the SARC for the North Dakota National Guard, Mattson leads the state's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, an educational and prevention-based program designed to protect the rights and safety of the organization's soldiers and airmen.

Through confidential reporting measures, sexual assaults can be reported at any time and victims receive "sensitive and immediate comprehensive care and treatment they need to restore their health and well-being," according to the National Guard Bureau's website.

Taking Care of Soldiers, Airmen

"Taking care of our soldiers and airmen has always been my No. 1 priority, and professionals like Heather provide the resources, training, expertise and leadership to ensure that goal is met," said Army Maj. Gen. David A. Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota’s adjutant general.

Sprynczynatyk added, "As an organization, we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual assault. It's important for all to know that our leadership fully supports our Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program and values Heather's initiative and creativity in challenging our Guardsmen to confront the damaging realities of sexual assault and domestic violence."

During the teleconference, Mattson was commended for developing a number of innovative, far-reaching projects to increase awareness about sexual assault throughout North Dakota's communities.

One of those projects is the Race to Zero 5K Run/Walk, which annually is held in Bismarck. For the past three years, Mattson has worked as a co-organizer for this event, partnering with multiple local and state agencies, such as the North Dakota Council on Abused Women's Services, Prevent Child Abuse North Dakota, Abused Adult Resource Center, Bismarck Prevention Task Force, and Region 7 Foster Care/Adoption Recruitment Coalition, and more than 20 private sector sponsors.

Mattson also has led the North Dakota SAPR program's victim advocates in developing promotional resources and products for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Posters, displays and fact sheets about sexual harassment/assault response and prevention are distributed at each North Dakota National Guard facility across the state in April.

Additionally, Mattson has partnered with the Abused Adult Resource Center to develop a series of public service announcements, which have been broadcast on local television stations. The videos feature North Dakota National Guard soldiers and airmen and civilian professionals from multiple state agencies. In addition to public distribution, the products have been incorporated into unit training for North Dakota Guardsmen.

‘A Dynamic Professional’

An excerpt from the 2015 Exceptional SARC Award citation reads:

"A dynamic professional, Mrs. Mattson displayed a passion to dispel myths and challenge negative attitudes toward victims of sexual assault. Her boundless enthusiasm and genuine concern lead to improved morale, thereby enabling commanders to focus on accomplishing the mission. Widely recognized for her innovation, she is often sought out for advice and assistance. Mrs. Mattson established a curriculum committee to ensure the delivery of current and relevant training. Her infectious energy and interactive presentations greatly increased audience participation, significantly elevating the effectiveness of the training."

A graduate of the University of North Dakota, Mattson holds a Bachelor of Science degree in social work. In 2010, she earned her master's degree in social work and is a licensed-certified social worker. She also is a 2011 recipient of the Dakotah Cassandra Award, which recognizes professionals who have worked in communities around North Dakota to combat violence against women.

Mattson has served as a traditional member of the North Dakota Air National Guard since 2005. She was named the 2012 Outstanding Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for the 119th Wing in Fargo, North Dakota.

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