Arizona Air Guard emphasizes zero tolerance for sexual assault

Arizona Air Guard emphasizes zero tolerance for sexual assault

Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire., the Arizona Adjutant General, briefs members from the Arizona Air National Guard at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, for the annual for SAPR down-day during September’s drill, Sept. 6. The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response [SAPR] program involved a full day of training to include briefs from the Adjutant General, the 161st Air Refueling Wing Commander, the Phoenix Police Department, and a trauma healing manager, as well as small group breakout sessions in the afternoon. (National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Courtney Enos)

PHOENIX -- The 161st Air Refueling Wing conducted a Sexual Assault Prevention and Response down-day here, Sept. 6.


Airmen received training on sexual assault prevention and response. Also, wing members broke into small groups with trained facilitators to discuss various scenarios and address issues or concerns that they have.


The SAPR down-day not only meets the Department of Defense and Air Force policy requirements, it teaches Airmen to recognize the impact of sexual assault on individuals and the Air Force and to identify the behaviors of offenders, their characteristics or indicators, and how they operate, according to Maj. Jessica Hastings, wing sexual assault and response coordinator.


"The goal of SAPR stand-down was to provide Airmen with tools for preventing sexual assault, and to encourage them to help keep their fellow Airmen and their work environments safe, because without that safety, the overall Air Force mission is hindered," Hastings said.


The day started off with a briefing from Arizona's Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Michael T. McGuire, and a commander's call from Col. Gary Brewer Jr., 161st Air Refueling Wing commander. There were also special presentations with representatives from the Phoenix Police Department and a trauma healing manager from a local crisis management center.

"Everything we do is about being ready to perform our combat assigned mission, whether it is in the operational role, training role, in garrison or deployed overseas - it doesn't matter," said McGuire. "The strength of our military is not what kind of aircraft we fly or if we have advanced weapons - it has everything to do with the strength of the team and this is a team sport."


He said that nothing will undercut the power of the team more than sexual assault and sexual harassment.

"Harassment, whether it's for race or for gender, is just not going to make us better," said McGuire. "If you cannot convince me that it makes us more lethal, as a fighting team, then you will not do it; and if you absolutely insist on doing it, you will be removed from the team. You will not serve in the Arizona National Guard if you cannot treat one another with the proper dignity and respect."


The commander of the 161st echoed the adjutant general's comments on the zero tolerance policy of assault in the Guard.


"We need to stop it. We need people to come forward and we need to hold people accountable. If they can't do what's right, if they can't live with integrity, put service before self and have excellence in all they do, they need to be gone," said Brewer.


Brewer encouraged anyone who has or does experience harassment to report it. He said victims should not fear that they will not be believed. He stressed that all allegations will be fully investigated and the perpetrators will be held fully accountable.


"The main thing is that people come forward and get the help that they need and that they feel comfortable that they will be supported by their organization and by their Guard family. We will support them and not blame them,” said Brewer. "I can't do it alone, no one can. We need everyone coming together to make this better."


After the base-wide briefings, Airmen broke up into small group discussions. The discussions encouraged members to engage in conversation geared to help individuals better understand how sexual offenders operate and different ways to prevent sexual assault.

Conducting events like the SAPR stand-down encourages Airmen at all levels to be supportive and to seek help when it is needed. Many options are available to victims of sexual assault; from medical treatment to criminal investigation procedures, men and women have many options to choose from whether they choose restricted or non-restricted reporting.


If you have been a victim of sexual assault or know someone who has, please call the 161st's SAPR hotline at (602) 302-9176. The Sexual Assault Response Coordinator is available 24/7, providing the opportunity for assistance to anyone at any time.