Wednesday, October 18, 2017

DoD Sexual Assault Experts Offer, Gain Valuable Insight at Annual Training Event

By Katie Lange

The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) works continuously to ensure service members get the help they need. To uphold this mission, SAPRO strives to make certain those who support and assist victims have all the latest information.

This effort was recently highlighted during the 43rd National Organization for Victim Assistance Training Event in San Diego, where a huge military presence turned out. Event organizers said more than 500 service members and DoD civilians were there, accounting for nearly a third of the 1,600 people in attendance.

There were more than 100 presentations and workshops for service sexual assault prevention and response (SAPR) personnel to attend, ranging from crisis tips to mock exercises that will help hone key skills that better assist survivors of this crime.

During a session called Military Monday, experts from SAPRO were able to share resources and explain what the department has learned with other practitioners in the SAPR community. A panel discussion gave the services the opportunity to ask questions of SAPRO leadership. The attendees – nearly 600 of them – were energetic and engaged, offering an impressive amount of participation and insight from the field. That feedback, from NOVA and other events, will help inform departmental program and policy enhancements aimed to address military sexual assault.

“We were particularly excited by the large numbers of DoD SAPR personnel at Military Monday and at presentations throughout the week, as well as their high levels of participation and engagement,” said Bette Inch, SAPRO’s Senior Victim Assistance Advisor. “These personnel have a real passion for their jobs, and it was a privilege to be part of their learning experience.”

RADM Ann Burkhardt, the director of DoD SAPRO, gave a speech at the opening of the week-long event  to service SAPR personnel, thanking them for their efforts on behalf of sexual assault survivors and for advocating for victims’ rights. RADM Burkhardt also praised these key practitioners for their enthusiasm in delivering high-quality care to every survivor.

While acknowledging that sexual assault continues to be a significant challenge in the military, she shared what is showing promise for the DoD – thanks, in part, to the sharing of best practices from the civilian community.
Collaboration, Community, Commitment

At the event, civilian partners worked with DoD’s experts to provide advanced victim advocacy training that met or exceeded standards of the National Advocate Credentialing Program, allowing DoD attendees to receive DoD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program continuing education credits, a requirement for advocates to renew their credentials. Through this collaboration, SAPRO has developed a cadre of credentialed advocates who stand ready to serve military sexual assault survivors – more than 24,000 service members and DoD civilians are currently certified across the department.

Through the DoD community, advocates who are a lifeline for survivors don’t have to be the only people to help victims put their lives back together. SAPR programs in every service have a multifaceted team of experts to assist with reporting, health care, the investigative process and the legal process. Experts include Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, Victim Advocates, medical forensic examiners, the Special Victims’ Counsel and Victim’s Legal Counsel legal personnel, military chaplains, criminal investigators, inspectors general and special victims’ prosecutors.

Burkhardt also reiterated the military’s commitment to the mission and how it starts from the top.

“We are an organization comprised of people who understand what this problem means to an effective fighting force. We engage every individual – from the Secretary of Defense … to the newest recruits and future service members on delayed entry – to be part of the solution,” she said. “This issue is lethal to our military and we must continue to do everything in our power to eradicate it from our force.”

While recent DoD data shows sexual assault is occurring less often among service members, and a greater share of service members are choosing to report the notoriously underreported crime, Burkhardt was quick to point out that progress didn’t mean success.

“Despite major declines in occurrences of sexual assault, far too many of our people still find their lives changed by a perpetrator of this crime. And far too many continue to suffer in silence,” she said. “Units are divided when cohesiveness is shattered with the broken bond of trust.”

The NOVA Training Event is just one of many throughout the year that help SAPR personnel further develop their skills as practitioners. The unprecedented turnout and participation of SAPR personnel from across the department shows the dedication and commitment the military has to tackling this issue.

For free confidential assistance, call the DoD Safe Helpline at 877-995-5247 or visit

Guardsmen Provide Communication Support to Wildfire Evacuees

By Air Force Senior Airman Crystal Houseman California National Guard

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif., Oct. 18, 2017 — Airmen from the California National Guard continue to provide cellphone and internet support to people who fled their homes last week as wildfires raged through California's wine country.

The 163rd Attack Wing here sent four airmen and the wing's mobile emergency operations center, or MEOC, to an evacuation area at Napa Valley College in Napa on Oct. 10 after the Tubbs fire threatened homes in the Calistoga area.

The MEOC is a rapidly deployable, Federal Emergency Management Agency Type 2 communications trailer that can provide customers with ground-to-ground and air-to-ground communications support. It also features a self-contained wireless network and satellite uplink capabilities.

With local cellphone towers down and internet access limited by the fires, many evacuees had no way to reach family members or get new information about the fires.

Wireless Internet, Cellphone Tower

By early the next morning, the MEOC and its staff of emergency management and communications airmen established a wireless internet network and set up a tactical cellphone tower, enabling evacuees to make phone calls and contact loved ones.

The MEOC team is also providing up-to-date fire maps and incident information along with full-motion video being streamed into the trailer. More than 300 people have come into the MEOC seeking information since the airmen arrived.

"A lot of these people are wondering if their house is burned to the ground or not, and we're giving those people relief," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Tyler Crumpton, MEOC team leader and emergency manager.

"We were able to type in their address and see how close they were to the fire line," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Hideyoshi Izumi, who serves as a communications operator for the MEOC.

'They Want to Know If Their Home is Gone'

Izumi, who is working the overnight shift while the MEOC provides around-the-clock services to evacuees, said about 20 people stop by for updated information each night. "People can't sleep," Izumi said. "They want to know if their home is gone."

Sometimes the news isn't good.

"These people are taking bad news like a champ. They're told some pretty rough stuff," Crumpton said. "I get the feeling they are hopeful and tough people."

About 1,200 people from the Calistoga, Napa and Lake Berryessa communities have come through the shelter, American Red Cross officials said.

FEMA personnel and insurance representatives are also using the MEOC to access real-time fire maps and data to further their work.

The California National Guard activated in support of civil authorities battling a series of wildfires that started Oct. 9. Soldiers and airmen are providing aerial, ground and infrastructure support during the response and recovery effort.

Kentucky Air Guardsmen Process 7.2 Million Pounds of Aid in Puerto Rico

By Air Force Lt. Col. Dale Greer 123rd Airlift Wing

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Oct. 18, 2017 — Thirty-five members of the Kentucky Air National Guard’s 123rd Contingency Response Group returned home yesterday after a three-week deployment to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they processed more than 7.2 million pounds of humanitarian aid for recovery operations following Hurricane Maria.

The airmen arrived in San Juan Sept. 23 and were among the first U.S. military forces to deploy for the relief effort, said Air Force Col. Bruce Bancroft, the unit’s commander. They established an aerial port of debarkation at Luis Munoz Marin International Airport the day they arrived and began accepting military aircraft the next day, eventually receiving food, water, electric generators and other essential cargo from 268 aircraft.

The airmen also processed 3,887 arriving passengers from a variety of agencies -- including the Defense Department and the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- to assist with relief efforts.

While the Kentucky airmen are now home, the cargo mission will continue for the foreseeable future, Bancroft said. Primary responsibility for the aerial port has been turned over to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.

“Standing up this aerial port of debarkation was an extremely important mission for us,” Bancroft said. “Like all units in the U.S. military, our group has an important combat role to play, but as National Guardsmen, we also specialize in providing humanitarian aid to the homeland. It has been very gratifying to know that our skills and capabilities are making a difference for the people of Puerto Rico.

“Now, that mission will be carried forward by the next group of airmen from the Puerto Rico Air National Guard.”

Busy Year

The San Juan operation was the 123rd CRG’s second mobilization for hurricane relief this year. The unit also sent 43 airmen to Texas Aug. 29, where they established an aeromedical evacuation hub in Houston following Hurricane Harvey.

In the past six weeks, the Kentucky Air National Guard has deployed more than 150 airmen for relief operations following three major storms -- Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Those airmen include 18 members of the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, who rescued 333 residents stranded by flooding in Houston in the aftermath of Harvey.

Kentucky Air National Guardsmen also were instrumental in the evacuation of more than 1,000 U.S. citizens from the Dutch island of St. Maarten following Irma by providing air traffic control and flying passengers to safety in Puerto Rico aboard two Kentucky Air National Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft.

The Kentucky Air National Guard still has 35 airmen deployed for hurricane recovery operations, including seven who departed for Puerto Rico Oct. 11 to staff a mobile field kitchen that can serve up to 4,000 hot meals a day. Other Kentucky Air National Guardsmen are providing airfield management in the U.S. Virgin Islands and aircraft maintenance in Savannah, Georgia, where the National Guard Bureau has established a major cargo hub to fly relief supplies from the mainland to the Caribbean.

Kentucky has contributed three of its C-130 aircraft for the Savannah-based operation, and currently has 21 aircrewmen and support personnel dedicated to the effort.

“This has been an unprecedented hurricane season, with three major back-to-back storms,” said Air Force Col. David Mounkes, commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, the Kentucky Air Guard’s main operational unit. “I’m pleased to say that the response of our airmen has been equally unprecedented. From saving lives in Texas to setting cargo records in Puerto Rico, our airmen continue to step up for these extremely important missions.”