Assaults impact mission readiness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Steven Schutt
  • 42nd Air Base Wing
Thank you for keeping up with this series aiding us as we prepare Team Maxwell for our consolidated unit inspection in September. Last month's commentary was focused on you: self-assessment and the roles and responsibilities you have as a military professional. I want to continue with that focus, but in a different and very serious way.

I would be remiss if I didn't address one of the biggest issues facing our military at the moment and how it relates to our new Air Force inspection system, or AFIS: sexual assault within the military. I will not rehash the news stories that have appeared in the last few months. Suffice to say, when Congress is as angry as it is over a particular issue, there is something wrong. But members of Congress aren't the only people who should be mad. You should be too, I know I am.

A couple of months ago, I focused on steady-state mission readiness. Last month I focused on assessing your own performance, and today I want to integrate both of those elements in how we must successfully address sexual assault in our United States Air Force.

Quite simply, our Airmen cannot maintain and sustain a high level of mission readiness and combat focus when they are dealing with sexual assault. Not only does it undermine readiness, sexual assault is a criminal offense, and our Airmen deserve to live, work and play in a safe and secure environment, free of discrimination, sexual harassment and sexual assault. So how do we take care of our Airmen and stay focused on the mission? The first avenue is always education. The office of the secretary of defense mandated commanders receive sexual assault prevention and response training, which also is being incorporated into senior NCO, wing, group and squadron commander courses. Airmen new to the Air Force will receive SAPR training as part of their accessions training. SAPR training is being actively incorporated into all settings to include technical schools, professional military education and wings. Let me ask you: do you feel confident in the education you have received regarding sexual assault? Take a moment to assess.

The second avenue is evaluating how we are doing with respect to sexual assault issues. The new AFIS will focus on four major graded areas: executing the mission, managing resources, leading people and improving the unit. Sexual assault adversely affects every one of those areas.

When our Airmen are affected by sexual assault, their effort is simply not vectored to executing the mission. If their vitally important time, energy and effort are lost because of their having to individually cope with a sexual assault, we certainly aren't managing our resources well. Any case of sexual assault is simply an example of all of us not being able to lead well. And some of us have seen this aspect firsthand, but when an Airman deals with sexual assault, we have taken a step backward and are not improving our unit.

My past few commentaries have tied into our CUI coming this September. This one goes beyond that. Our new reality is that although a revised Air Force inspection system may highlight unit performance and compliance, it may not uncover enough about the serious issue of sexual assault. A unit that isn't fully SAPR educated or that isn't integrating that SAPR education into its steady-state readiness does not adhere to our core values. Airmen who are not fully SAPR educated or who do not integrate that SAPR education into their toolbox do not adhere to our core values. There is not a place for sexual assault in our Air Force. Which leads me to my final thought for you with respect to sexual assault issues: how are you helping to eradicate sexual assault in our Air Force?

It's a question we all need to honestly assess and honestly answer.