AL UDED AIR BASE, QATAR --
Dealing with the problem of sexual assault can create
lasting negative impacts throughout any organization, especially on a
deployment. It only takes one airman to make a difference, inspire and inform
others to be a better wingman; 1st Lieutenant Tawny Gardner made that happen at
Al Udeid Air base, Qatar.
The 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation
award recently made its home at Al Udeid Air Base with the help of 1st Lt.
Gardner. In 2014 the Department of Defense announced that they would begin SAPR
Innovation Award to help recognize improvements in DOD’s fight to prevent
sexual assaults. In January 2015 Gardner challenged herself to improve the sometimes
chaotic, deployed environment by reaching out and assimilating with airmen at
“My mission as the SARC is to provide support to those
who are survivors as well as focus on prevention of sexual assault,” said
Gardner. “Deployment is a unique environment compared to Home station, with a
heavy ops tempo.”
A typical SARC mission is completed by multiple military
and civilian members within an organization. The SAPR program here is operated
by one; supporting more than 4,000 Air Force deployed members. Gardner required
a plan which could both impact the Airmen on a personal level and engage in
SAPR topics. She was inspired to use
this tactic from a previous site visit by the Chaplain Religious Support Teams,
saying she wanted an impactful way to reach airmen in addition to focusing on
“Conducting visits and learning about Airmen, their
mission, and getting to perform their jobs with them has been such an amazing
experience. I’ve learned so much and
have been able to really connect with people. This has been one of my favorite
things about this deployment,” said Gardner.
In over four months Gardner was able to visit over 70
sections and flights, not only giving briefings but interacting as well. Being visible
and communicating with airmen has encouraged Airmen here to speak freely on
issues or solutions with her to better SAPR programs during deployments. Though
formal presentations and slideshows convey a message, actions speak louder than
words. Gardner helped build fences, fuel aircraft, hang drywall, run wire and
cable, survey new dormitories, climb communication towers to clean solar panels
and even search vehicles. She was even able to travel throughout AFCENT and
visit detachments of the 379th AEW.
in the workplace, and with airmen understanding the role they play in
prevention of sexual assault,” said Brig Gen. Darren Hartford, former 379th Air
Expeditionary Wing commander. “Lt Gardner created a broad-reaching ‘safe-place’
to openly and honestly discuss these tough topics within the workplace.”
Being chosen for
the innovation award was just proof that the system worked and is still
working. The SAPR program here at Al Udeid can be used as a benchmark for home stations.
Putting a face to a name made the SARC credible, but being in airmen’s boots is
what made the AFCENT SAPR program exceptional.