AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --
Twenty-nine U.S. Air Force and Army members took an oath to serve on the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s newest Teal Team 6 at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, June 18, 2021.
This initiative is part of a DoD-wide effort to develop and implement proactive strategies to create a respectful culture and prevent and reduce incidents of sexual assault and sexual harassment, explained Capt. Emma Wahlig, sexual assault response coordinator, 380 AEW.
“As the United States Air Force, or any fighting service, we cannot afford to allow people to treat each other poorly, because at a very high level it degrades combat capability,” said Brig. Gen. Andrew Clark, commander, 380 AEW. “Anything that distracts people from doing their job, degrades our ability to do the mission.”
There’s still a problem and computer-based training and mandatory briefings are not working, Clark said. “The problem is we’re not dealing with it at the core, the root of it.”
Airmen are at the root of the problem, and Airmen need to be at the root of the solution, which is where the conception of Teal Team 6 began.
“What we have to do is create a culture where any form of disrespect is not tolerated, and that starts with Airmen,” Clark said.
Members from around the wing, men and women of diverse rank and background were eager to apply for a spot on the team, said Wahlig.
“They have all showed impressive determination, passion and motivation to become Teal Team 6 representatives,” she said.
The 29 Airmen and Soldiers who accomplished the required training and outreach requirements, developed the meaning behind their name. Teal stands for Together, Enhancing, Advocating and Leading, and the 6 represents the six pillars of courage, awareness, respect, empathy, responsibility and support, Wahlig explained.
“The members are eager to get out into their respective units to start those difficult conversations in creating cultural change,” she said.
Not only will Teal Team 6 members model positive behavior and police peers for inappropriate conduct, they are also trained to bridge the gap between members and the dedicated care team providers (Sexual Assault Prevention & Response, Equal Opportunity, and the chaplain and mental health teams) and steer them to the appropriate helping agency when there is a need, Wahlig explained.
Clark expects the Teal Team 6 to take care of their fellow Airmen and Soldiers and inculcate the culture necessary to succeed.
“You call people out when it happens, you talk to supervisors, you’re going to make this visible, and then you’re going to take care of those Airmen that it affects,” he said. “You’re gonna get them back in the fight as soon as you can.”
This peer response team has a very important purpose, and may deal with some heavy topics, Wahlig said, but they are up for the challenge.
“I’m proud of each of you for stepping up to the table and doing something different,” Clark said, “something I think will actually fix this problem and bring our wing and the Air Force back to a place where these things will no longer be able to distract us from doing our job.”