Military News

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Real Airmen Speak Program gives Airmen safe forum to discuss sexual assault prevention

by Senior Airman Stephanie Morris
Minot Air Force Base Public Affairs

6/10/2015 - MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- The mood is tense as a group of strangers sit together in a classroom at the Minot Air Force Base Education Center June 3, 2015.

The assemblage has come together to take part in the Real Airmen Speak Program.

Soon enough, an instructor enters the room and directs all males to leave for the classroom next door, as a female instructor stays with the women. The discussion has officially begun.

"Real Airmen Speak is part of the fiscal year '15 Sexual Assault Prevention and Readiness Training," said Reagan Gagne, 5th Bomb Wing sexual assault response coordinator. "It is specific to Air Force Global Strike Command as a pilot program that Gen. Wilson has authorized."

The 90 minute classes focus on a new structure with a goal of encouraging maximum participation and information sharing.

The class starts out separated by gender with a discussion of various scenarios, many of which are raw and honest depictions of what could really happen in an assault. Then, during the second half of the class both genders come together to discuss their point of view.

During class, attendees are also in civilian attire to remove rank and names for a more open and honest discussion, Gagne said.

The class is designed for all enlisted members age 28 and under. Dates and times vary, but on average the class is held six times a week to accommodate training the three thousand airmen that are required to attend.

The facilitators who teach the class were hand selected by their squadron commanders, both command chiefs and had to meet certain criteria.

Instructors for the large group discussions are the SARC, SAPR Victim Advocate and the volunteer VA's.

The overall theme of the class focuses on discussing communication, consent and respect.

"Learning from each other to reshape the way we think about common scenarios will get you thinking about where consent is factored in and why communicating to someone you are interested in or are in a relationship with is so important," Gagne explained. "It doesn't matter how much or little experience you've had on the topics because it can be applicable to helping yourself, friends, loved ones, or even for our future leaders."

The benefit of this style of class is that it breaks down the barriers on the taboo of sex and sexual assault, Gagne said. There's no right or wrong answer and it is not designed to give participants the Air Force answer.

"I think it was a very well structured class and will be a good tool for the Air Force," said Senior Airman Andrew Wood, 5th Operations Support Squadron air traffic controller. "Being in civilian clothes and having an open forum type of discussion really brought out more 'real' opinions and answers on what people think does and does not constitute sexual assault."

Unit Training Manager's are in charge of signing up their units for the classes and anyone interested in more information can contact the base SAPR office.

"The way ahead for preventing sexual assault is ever changing and progressive," Gagne said. "If we want to take a step ahead to decrease the severity of sexual assault we need to talk about it. This isn't just an Air Force problem it is a societal problem."

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