Leadership stands firm against sexual assault

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Ashley J. Thum
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force has proclaimed its zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault, but without vigilance from its Airmen, this creed cannot be upheld.

Leaders across the base have taken this obligation to heart.

Chief Master Sgt. Benjamin Saunders, 28th Maintenance Group chief, said eradicating sexual assault begins with shaping a culture where it is not tolerated.

"My responsibilities are to ensure that our Airmen have an environment that fosters awareness of sexual assault, that standards are clearly defined and that each Airman knows what their responsibilities are in regard to identifying, preventing and reporting sexual assault," Saunders said.

Master Sgt. Andriea Cook, 28th Operations Group host aviation resource management superintendent, echoed the sentiment that Airmen must adhere to a high standard of conduct.

"I set clear boundaries of unacceptable behavior and hold them accountable," Cook explained. "My Airmen should also expect to remain current on all sexual assault training."

Although Saunders and Cook agreed that Airmen must be educated to combat sexual assault, they recognize the role supervisors and other leaders play in protecting them.

"I will always be readily available to assist in any way I can," Cook said. "If my Airmen become a victim of sexual assault, they will have my full support."

Saunders emphasized that his role as a chief is to guarantee his Airmen are aware of the commander's policies regarding sexual assault, and to guide supervisors in enforcing it.

"I expect my Airmen to be good wingmen and know how to identify situations and risk factors that could lead to a sexual assault in order to prevent them," Saunders said. "If a sexual assault does occur, they can put their trust in me that I will ensure that the situation is dealt with in the appropriate manner and will support those in need."

Cook added being a supervisor gives her the opportunity to interact with and develop a rapport with her Airmen - one that is necessary in the event of something bad happening.

"I am the first line of defense for my Airmen, and I have an obligation to keep them safe and correct inappropriate behaviors that will hinder them from being mission-ready and achieving their full potential," Cook said.

To report sexual assault, call the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at (605) 385-5233 or the 24/7 reporting line at (605) 385-SARC (7272).