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‘In Airmen’s Boots’; SARC wins ACC 2015 SAPR Prevention Innovation Award

1st Lt Tawny Gardner is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program with deployed airman to help bridge the gap of communication and providing trusted support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program with deployed airman to help bridge the gap of communication and providing trusted support. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, re-wires a street light with SrA Dominic Jordan and
SrA George Linen, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron June 26, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner, 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, re-wires a street light with SrA Dominic Jordan and SrA George Linen, 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron June 26, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner wears an Explosive Ordinance bomb suit while interacting with the airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron May 12, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner wears an Explosive Ordinance bomb suit while interacting with the airmen from the 379th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron May 12, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner cleans a solar panel while working with airmen from the 39th Expeditionary Communications Squadron April 20, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

1st Lt Tawny Gardner cleans a solar panel while working with airmen from the 39th Expeditionary Communications Squadron April 20, 2015 at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. Gardner was awarded the 2015 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response innovation award recently by the Department of Defense for her program while deployed to Al Udeid Air Base. (Courtesy Photo)

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 the ‘Deid’. 

“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 prevention. 

“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.

 

“Prevention starts 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.