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380th AEW SAPR team lights the path of empowering Airmen

U.S. Army and Air Force service members participate in Al Dhafra Air Base’s first Lighting and Safety Glow Walk, Aug. 25, 2021. Members and volunteers of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program hosted the event to allow the community to identify potentially unsafe locations around base.

U.S. Army and Air Force service members participate in Al Dhafra Air Base’s first Lighting and Safety Glow Walk, Aug. 25, 2021. Members and volunteers of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response program hosted the event to allow the community to identify potentially unsafe locations around base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jao’Torey Johnson)

AL DHAFRA AIR BASE, United Arab Emirates --

Al Dhafra Air Base’s first lighting survey event was hosted by the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s Sexual Assault Prevention & Response team on Aug. 25, 2021.

The event was advertised as a Lighting and Safety Glow Walk, which entailed members of the base populace walking the commonly traversed areas, while wearing glowing accessories, and identifying safety concerns such as inadequate lighting and tripping hazards.

U.S. Air Force Capt. Emma Wahlig, the 380th AEW sexual assault response coordinator, adapted the event from a similar concept used on college campuses.

“The idea is to empower Airmen and give them a voice about what makes them feel unsafe on base,” said Wahlig. “It also demonstrates, in a collaborative effort from multiple agencies and units, that base leadership is concerned with the health and safety of all members.”

The 380th Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron agreed to devote already-strained manpower to correcting the 185 potential safety concerns that were identified during the walk.  

To survey more areas around base, the participants were split into two groups, led by Wahlig and U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jao’Torey Johnson, a SAPR volunteer victim advocate.

During the walk, Wahlig, Johnson and Teal Team 6, SAPR’s peer response team, periodically discussed SAPR, harassment, and safety related topics to give attendees a forum to ask questions and strengthen the relationship between the SAPR team and the community.

One attendee, U.S. Air Force Capt. Garrett Spellacy, admitted he’d never encountered such an event in the military but found it empowering, saying, “it doesn’t matter what base you’re at, Airmen always have concerns and this gives them an avenue to voice some of those safety concerns and have them mitigated before they become issues.”

Wahlig agreed the lighting survey is meant to be a proactive effort to address areas of concern before an incident occurs.

While the initiative could have been pitched to the 380th ECES as an undertaking for them to accomplish, Wahlig’s vision was for the event to be about more than the evident task.

“It’s important to note that this event was not just about fixing some broken lights,” Wahlig stated. “This was an opportunity to give our Airmen a voice, and just as important, an opportunity for leadership to build trust by fixing issues to show the Airmen that when concerns are expressed, change will happen.”