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Awareness and Resiliency: Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Lauren M. Snyder
  • 332d Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month occurs every April every year. The 332d Air Expeditionary Wing’s focus on taking care of its warfighters means SAAPM is a time to reflect on what it means to be a wingman, keeping in line with the Defense Department’s 2022 SAAPM theme of "Step Forward. Prevent. Report. Advocate."

A wingman uses their personal strength to advance positive change: leading by example, choosing action when needed, and taking a stand against sexual violence.

“Being a good wingman is being there for one another and keeping others in check,” said Capt. Allan Romero, 332d AEW sexual assault response coordinator. “We’re essentially all family, especially being in a deployed environment, so we need to take care of each other.”

As part of the 332d AEW’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program, the SARC, lead victim advocate and volunteers provided multiple opportunities throughout the month for Red Tails to gain awareness of the services provided.

These SAAPM events included a 5K run, weekly discussions outside the dining facility, a volleyball tournament and a 5K/10K ruck.

“Sexual assault is a threat to our mission,” said Romero. “We protect our people so that we can continue with the mission. We can work and have fun in a safe space where we feel protected and watched over by our wingmen. ‘People first, mission always’ is truly about just caring.”

One of the Air Force core values, ‘excellence in all you do,’ is reflected in how Red Tail Airmen care for each other. Members are capable of preventing, reporting, and promoting advocacy for a safer military community.

“The Tuskegee Airmen are our heritage, and they stood out like no other group, giving us a humbling legacy; they set the standard at the prestigious level,” said Staff Sgt. Kory Talbert, 332d AEW lead VA. “That Red Tails standard keeps us in check, builds us up, and helps us help each other.”

Ultimately, preventing and addressing sexual assault within the ranks creates a healthier and more lethal military.

“Our society recognizes how important mental health is and how traumatic experiences affect your entire life: whether it's mental, physical, emotional, psychological,” said Talbert. “Talking about sexual assault is a taboo subject, but bringing awareness and having those conversations really helps people.”

One of the advantages of talking to the SARC or a SAPR VA is the confidentially they provide, which can deliver support to members without sending notification to command or law enforcement officials.

If the survivor wishes to receive SAPR support but not pursue an official investigation they can file a restricted report, which offers help through various services: Special Victims' Counsel legal support, referral to a helping agency and, when necessary, up to 30 days of convalescent leave with the recommendation of a primary care manager. This reporting option was built to allow survivors to receive care while maintaining their confidentiality.

“We are one of the commander’s resources in taking care of our people,” said Talbert. “Every Airman should be reminded how important that they are. We're all in this together, and protecting our people protects our mission.”