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Commander's Comments: Hurts ONE, Affects ALL

Swanton, Ohio -- One definition offered by the dictionary defines professionalism as "characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession". As members of the Air Force, we are all considered professionals. We are the GUARDIANS OF FREEDOM AND JUSTICE, MY NATION'S SWORD AND SHIELD, ITS SENTRY AND AVENGER. That's a pretty tall order and something that is not taken lightly by our nation's citizens.

More than 35 years ago, when I entered the Air Force, I was a "knuckle-dragging" flightline mechanic and my primary concern was "conforming to the technical" portions of my career. My field of view rarely focused beyond the end of the wrench in my hand. The Air Force was much larger at that time, nearly 650,000, and it was difficult to picture myself as part of a bigger team.

Times have changed. The Air Force is considerably smaller and more diverse. More than ever before, every piece of the smaller Air Force machine has to be "value added." Every person contributes to the mission, and I mean EVERY person.

I recently attended a conference at Joint Base Andrews on Sexual Assault and Prevention. A veteran of countless Air Force conferences, I settled back in my seat for a series of guest speakers and "death by PowerPoint" presentations. But this conference was different. Day one began with Gen. Philip Breedlove, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, followed by several other notable general officers and presenters. Day two featured the Secretary of the U.S. Air Force, Michael Donley and another full list of distinguished briefers. If this list of heavy hitters didn't get my attention, I'm not sure what would have. It was two full days of "tell it like it is" information on sexual assault in the Department of Defense. All of the studies, figures, results and recommendations were briefed. Some portions were uncomfortable to listen to.

In 2010, there were over 2,617 reports of sexual assault in the DOD and it's estimated that only 14 percent of assaults are actually reported. This would indicate more than 86 percent go unreported for a total of 19,000 women and men. Notice I said women AND men. That's a staggering figure! In today's world, what modern military could perform at its peak when 19,000 of its members have been victims of sexual assault? None that I know of. This type of behavior is totally unacceptable and tears at our warrior sprit.

So, how do we effect change with these awful statistics? The answer is: Educating, Motivating, Supervising and Leading! We educate our Airmen on the effects that sexual assault has on the military and our Wingmen. We motivate our Airmen to realize that we are all one team and we "win" and "lose" together. We supervise each other to ensure no one ever gets left in a vulnerable position, or situation, and that every Airman is a Wingman. Finally, we lead by being involved and driving home a culture that no one has the right to intimidate, bully, coerce or sexually assault another person. Bottom line, sexual assault will not be tolerated in the DOD, and members found guilty of assault will be prosecuted with the full force of the Uniform Code of Military Justice or civilian courts, as applicable.

Soon we will be deploying for a short period to Alpena Air National Guard Base, Mich. It's a great opportunity for all of us to get some quality off-site training. In addition, we will get to spend more personal time together; something rarely afforded to us during busy Unit Training Assemblies. We need to ensure we are building camaraderie, fellowship and teamwork. Though, we also need to ensure external forces such as excessive alcohol consumption, late evenings and inappropriate behavior don't mar the experience. We go up as one team; we come back as one team!

In the end, this was the best conference I have ever attended in my Air Force career. Remember that tall order from the beginning - GUARDIANS OF FREEDOM AND JUSTICE, MY NATION'S SWORD AND SHIELD, ITS SENTRY AND AVENGER. The American people are counting on ALL of us! As Air Force professionals, we ALL need to ensure we can count on each other!

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