• Published
  • By Major Kurt Ring
  • 127th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron Commander
Is Sexual Assault Prevention and Response training so important that the Department of Defense (DOD) needed to shut down operations for a mandatory 4 hours of training? Is it really that bad? Let's look at the numbers. Just last year, the DOD had over 26,000 service members indicate they experienced unwanted sexual contact. A large majority of victims are young enlisted females, but all ranks have reported sexual assaults; including 12% of all victims being male. I was shocked, and so should you be, by the total numbers.

Mandatory SAPR training is just one example of training mandated by DOD in response to questionable moral decisions by its members. Human trafficking training and mandatory drug testing were also implemented in response to questionable behavior by a work force that is trained, from the beginning, to know better.

So where do I lay the blame? Leadership! You see, it is my belief that everyone is a leader. Everyone plays a role in successful mission accomplishment and everyone can directly impact the effectiveness of their organization, either positively or negatively. Everyone who wears the uniform, whether they are officer or enlisted, and whether they supervise individuals or not, must understand they are being watched. When you wear the uniform, you represent your unit, the Air Force and the military as a whole. How you dress and act will set the standard for others to follow. I believe it is the individual who should show the leadership to follow technical guidance at all times and to put on their hat while pumping gas or walking into the BX. It should not be the responsibility of the officer, SNCO, NCO or First Sergeant to police everyone.

Please know that I am not trying to tie sexual assault to not wearing a hat to the BX. I am just stating that if everyone just followed the rules and upheld the rules for the organization they voluntarily took the oath for, we would all be better off. The mandatory training I mentioned earlier is a prime example of how negative actions have directly affected mission accomplishment. Imagine if we could focus all the time spent on these mandatory training sessions towards mission goals. How much more effective could we be? Everyone's words and deeds set the standards that others will follow and in turn impact organizational effectiveness, morale and discipline.

Sexual assaults destroy lives. Not just the lives of sexual assault victims or the perpetrators, but also the co-workers, Wingman, friends and family. Failure to follow technical data can also easily degrade mission effectiveness and even cost lives. Sometimes the answer to our problem is very simple; just look in the mirror and ask yourself if you're being a good leader.

In short, the more officers and enlisted personnel who become effective leaders, the better off the Air Force will be. The final result will be improvement in individual and organizational effectiveness, morale and discipline. As we press forward to the upcoming Unit Compliance Inspection, make sure you have the courage to be a good leader. Not the charge-the-enemy-machine-gun courage, but the courage to be a good leader regardless of the situation.