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'A house divided...'

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Scott P. Maskery
  • 6th Mission Support Group deputy commander
I am going to make this short and sweet. I have closely followed the issue of sexual assault in our Air Force and in our military overall: reading the reports on the numbers; reading talking points posted by our most senior civilian and military leaders; and attending commander's calls where the topic is discussed or when our Sexual Assault Response coordinator speaks on it. In those reports, talking points, and commander's calls I have--we all have--been asked to realize how detrimental sexual assault is to our military and Wingman culture.

We look to our right, we look to our left, and in those briefings we are asked to take note that someone in the audience near us has, statistically, been a victim.

I have thought more about this problem, internalized it and there is good reason - I think it has become our modern day Air Force social crisis. It is akin to "a house divided against itself cannot stand." Why? Because if the problem is not fixed, and fixed immediately, it might get to a point where I might not feel comfortable encouraging my daughter, my son and all those other daughters and sons who could become the next generation of Airmen (or soldiers, sailors, Marines or coast guardsmen) to join our ranks.
If we don't immediately fix the problem, how can any of us, in good conscience, encourage young men and women to raise their hands to serve in our military? Statistically, one out of three military women and one out of six military men will become a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime.

What parent would encourage military service if he or she knew ahead of time that there was a fair chance their daughter or son would be sexually assaulted or harassed?

I will answer this for you: none.

For me, encouraging military service to our nation is as natural as breathing. For example, when I see a young adult standing in line next to me at the movie theater or in a check-out line in a store, I will start a quick conversation about how great the Air Force is and how he or she should look into it. My wife, Jennifer, gets a little irritated when I "start recruiting." She thinks it is embarrassing, but at the end of the day she knows why I do it. I know our Air Force is the best organization in the world and I truly believe in our people and our mission.

However, when I know that an act is being committed within our ranks, where our own brothers and sisters in arms are being hurt, through sexual assaults, it becomes more difficult to talk about how great we are. We're losing the moral high ground. We have got to fix it and fix it now.

We have begun the fix through our openness on the subject. Now we need to retake the high ground through our actions. Recently, our SARC has been asking you to take every potential assault against any Airman personally. I ask you, for the sake of our collective future, in and out of uniform, do not commit sexual assault, do not sexually harass, do not condone it, do not tolerate it, and, if you know about it, report it so we can weed out those who do not belong in our ranks. Help us solve this problem and stop our house from being further divided.