Base walkers raise awareness
Airmen and civilians, men and women, walk together through Maxwell
Wednesday in support of sexual assault awareness. (Air Force photo by Melanie Rodgers Cox)
by Kelly Deichert
Air University Public Affairs
4/6/2012 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- Maxwell community members put on walking shoes and spoke out against sexual assault Wednesday as they marched from gate to gate, kicking off Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The group of about 80 walked from the Day Street gate to the Maxwell Boulevard gate along Selfridge Street, carrying banners and waving signs.
The group chanted "hurts one, hurts all," this year's Air Force and Department of Defense theme. Many wore T-shirts saying "true wingmen respect and protect."
LaNesa Howard, the installation sexual assault response coordinator, said events like these increase empathy, understanding and support for those surviving sexual assault.
"We all need to be wingmen," she said.
Events celebrating the themed month include two Strike Out Sexual Assault bowl-a-thons, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Maxwell Bowling Center and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Gunter Lanes. Thanks to Howard's efforts, the community is hearing the message to make Maxwell AFB and Gunter Annex a no-rape installation.
"I'm here to support my coworkers and speak out against sexual assault," said John Gunter from the Jeanne M. Holm Center for Officer Accessions and Citizen Development.
"People have rights and they have the right to say 'no,'" said Maj. Ken Phillips, one of 14 Air Command and Staff College students who participated.
Sgt. Kevin Ellis from the Electronic Systems Center at Gunter Annex said he walked to end sexual assault in support of his five kids, three of whom are daughters.
"I hope it raises awareness across Maxwell," he said as he walked with his wife, Stephanie Ellis, and son, KJ, who is 2 and a half.
After the walk, Howard read the proclamation declaring April Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
"Tomorrow's safety for the Airmen of Montgomery depends on our vigilance against sexual assault today," she said. "We join in asking our fellow citizens to increase their awareness and learn how to prevent sexual assault and all other forms of violence in communities across Alabama."
Col. Brian Killough, commander of the 42nd Air Base Wing, addressing the group, said sexual assault is a global problem, so prevalent that each person most likely knows a survivor.
"We each have the opportunity to strike back against something that is a plague on our society," he said.
Killough encouraged the crowd to speak out against music and language that glamorizes assault, especially with children and young adults, educating the next generation on appropriate behavior.
"You challenge them, stop them in their tracks," he said. "Don't let it end in April, but carry it throughout the year."