By Debbie Gregory.
With sexual assault and sexual harassment threatening the strength, readiness and morale of the U.S. military, the Army’s senior non-commissioned officer has announced an initiative to rid the ranks of these problems.
The zero tolerance policy, “‘Not in my squad’ is a promise that each leader must take in order to care for those in his or her charge, according to Daniel A. Dailey, Sgt. Major of the Army. He stated, “‘Not in my squad’ is about junior leaders taking ownership of solutions.”
According to the Department of Defense (DOD), tens of thousands of unwanted sexual contacts occur in the military every year, yet only a fraction of those get reported. Military sexual violence impacts both men and women. More than half of all incidents of sexual violence happen to men. While rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment are strongly associated with a wide range of mental health conditions for both men and women veterans, they are the leading causes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among women veterans.
The way that “Not in my Squad?” will work is that division-level and corps sergeants major will identify their best squad leaders, selecting a diverse group of 32 squad leaders from across the force. These squad leaders will discuss recommendations on how junior NCOs can build and sustain a climate of dignity, respect, trust, and inclusion.
“We are headed in the right direction to change the culture of reporting and ultimately preventing sexual assault and harassment,” Daily said. “We must remain committed to making further advances along our five lines of effort – prevention, investigation, accountability, advocacy and assessment and we must continue to work on fostering a climate where individuals are not afraid of retaliation or the stigma of reporting a crime.”
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, speaking about a video he had seen during the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) summit he attended, said, “This is really about the core of who we are and making sure everybody underneath us understands we will not tolerate these acts.”
Citing statistics outlined in the 2014 Department of Defense report to the president on sexual assault prevention and response, Dailey said the reporting of sexual assault in the Army had increased by 12 percent, a statistic he viewed as a vote of confidence.
“Not in my squad, not in our Army: we are trusted professionals, so I know all of us will join together and continue to tirelessly and tenaciously focus on the well-being, safety and dignity of our Soldiers and equally dedicated civilian corps,” Army Secretary John McHugh said.
“Sexual assault and sexual harassment shatters good order – it shatters discipline, but more than anything else it shatters the lives of our Soldiers and our larger Army family, and for all those reasons and so many more, we’ve got to do everything we can, day after day, hour after hour to stamp out sexual assault and reprisal,” McHugh said. “We have to instill trust and confidence in our Soldiers and our civilians so they know they can come forward to leaders and when they do, they won’t be victimized again.”
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Military Connection: Not In My Squad: By Debbie Gregory