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News > Commentary - Prevention of sexual assault is USARAK’s No. 1 priority
Prevention of sexual assault is USARAK’s No. 1 priority

Posted 6/21/2013   Updated 6/21/2013 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Army Maj. Gen. Michael Garrett
U.S. Army Alaska commanding general

6/21/2013 - JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- As an Army, we are the greatest ground fighting force in history. This week, we are celebrating our 238th birthday. We have a proud history of defending America, protecting her citizens and answering our homeland's call to defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We are the strength of the nation.

But as an organization, we still have things we can improve on. The U.S. Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno has made prevention of sexual harassment and assault, as well as caring for victims of these crimes, the number one priority. Think about that. The Army has many unique challenges and covers a huge portion of the planet and yet our number one priority is a threat from within.

This issue is serious enough that some of our nation's leaders are suggesting these crimes be handled outside the military court system. This would take from commanders the authority to prosecute these cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. That implies some of our nation's leaders, and by extension the Americans they represent, are losing faith in our ability to protect their Soldiers from being sexually assaulted or harassed. This alone should be enough to make every one of us look for new ways to protect the Soldiers in our ranks.

It may be easy for some leaders to see reports about sexual assault in the military and think it is just a problem in other places, but this simply isn't true. In the last year I have been in command, there have been a disturbing number of sexual harassment cases reported in our formations. Some of these cases have been Soldiers against other Soldiers. U.S. Army Alaska must do more in combating these crimes.

I expect every commander to choose their very best leaders for Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention and Response Program positions. SHARP representatives must be morally, ethically and professionally above reproach.
This problem of sexual assault isn't just for commanders to deal with. It will take every member of the Arctic Warrior family, every Soldier, spouse and civilian, to solve this problem.

Soldiers need to speak up when inappropriate language and jokes are used. Demand that your coworkers be professional and respectful. You need to reprimand your battle buddy when they step over the line. If each of us is committed to these standards, then we can prevent what begins as inappropriate behavior from escalating into something much worse.

When these crimes are reported, I am focused on looking after the needs of the victim and I expect every other Soldier to be as well. Many crimes go unreported because the victim is afraid they won't be believed or that they will be judged and further humiliated. Being sexually assaulted is never the victim's fault.

This is a difficult conversation, but it is one we will continue to have until we solve this problem together. Our Arctic Warrior family is just that, a family. Instead of being connected through blood we are bound by our patriotism, service and values. This has been true of our Army for 238 years.

It is our responsibility to maintain and fortify these bonds so the Army of tomorrow will have the strength and resilience necessary to carry on the defense of our beloved nation and the American way of life. I expect each of you to give your absolute best every single day and I promise I will do the same.

Arctic Warrior! Arctic Tough!

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