127th Wing takes stand against sexual assault

SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- There is no place for sexual assault in the 127th Wing.

"Let me be clear, every Airman in this wing matters," said Brig. Gen. Doug Slocum, 127th Wing commander at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Mich.

As part of the larger Dept. of Defense effort to eliminate sexual assault in the military - and to support victims of such assault - 127th Wing Airmen at Selfridge spent part of their June duty weekend being briefed on the problem and looking at ways to greatly reduce the occurrence of sexual assault in the Air Force.

According to Tech. Sgt. Michael Fiolek, one of several certified victim advocates in the 127th Wing, there were about 3,400 incidents of sexual assault in the Air Force in 2012 - about 40 percent of those incidents involved men as a victim.

The 127th Wing's 2015 SAPR training program involves a two-prong approach. The first part involves large group gatherings in which trained specialists, such as Fiolek, provided basic information about sexual assault and surrounding issues. During those training sessions, every Airman heard a message from Slocum, in  which the general not only outlined his "zero tolerance" approach to such activities but provided an overview of the support mechanisms that exist for those who may be assaulted, such as the wing's chaplains, psychological health expert and other services.

"Every Airman is a wingman," Slocum said. "Be the sort of wingman you would like by your side."

Fiolek, who works as a quality assurance specialist in the 127th Air Refueling Group, said he became interested in serving as a volunteer victim advocate in the wing after an Airman from another wing came to Fiolek to seek advice in a sexual harassment and assault situation while both Airmen were  deployed overseas.

"I like to be able to help someone," Fiolek said. "Through that experience of trying to support that Airman, I learned that there was a lot one person can do to help another who is dealing with this issue."

Key to helping a sexual assault survivor, Fiolek said, is how the first person responds when the survivor tells his or her own story.

"That first person can help the healing process begin or can further the trauma of the abuse based on their response," he said. "How you respond to a victim can impact the rest of their live."

During the 127th Wing's group training sessions, the trainers stressed the concept of a "red line" that should not be crossed. That red line, Fiolek said, can start with something as seemingly relatively minor as a few off-colored jokes.

"But that sets the culture for an environment where sexual assault is more likely to occur," he said.

Over the next several months, 127th Wing Airmen will engage in the second-prong of the SAPR - sexual assault prevention and response - training. Groups of up to 20 Airmen will gather for small group discussions to target specific actions and education aimed at eliminating the problem.

According to the Dept. of Defense, various initiatives launched by the DOD to combat sexual assault in military ranks are beginning to pay off. Sexual assault elimination has been a priority at the DOD level for several years. An independent survey indicated an estimated 18,900 service members experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2014, down from around 26,000 in 2012.

"While that's progress, ... by no means do we think this constitutes success, because we know that we still have three of four victims not coming forward," said Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow, who unt8il recently served as the director of the DOD SAPR Office.

About the 127th Wing
Comprised of approximately 1,700 personnel and flying both the A-10 Thunderbolt II and the KC-135 Stratotanker, the Michigan Air National Guard's 127th Wing supports Air Mobility Command and Air Combat Command operations by providing highly-skilled Airmen to missions domestically and overseas. The 127th Wing is the host unit at Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which marks its 98th year of continuous military air operations in 2015.