SASH: Student population fights sexual assault

Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini and Command Chief Master Sgt. Eric Johnson pinned teal ropes onto students in the Solid Rock Cafe at Sheppard Air Force Base April 23. The Teal ropes represent individuals that will serve in leadership positions to supplement the SASH program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson)

Brig. Gen. Michael Fantini, 82nd Training Wing commander, and 82 TRW Command Chief Master Sgt. Eric Johnson pinned teal ropes onto students in the Solid Rock Cafe at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas, April 23, 2013. The teal ropes represent individuals that will serve in leadership positions to supplement the SASH program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jelani Gibson)

SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- The Students Against Sexual Assault & Harassment (SASH) became an official student activity here at Sheppard with the inaugural "roping" ceremony by the 82nd Training Wing commander, Brig. Gen. Michael A. Fantini, and Command Chief Master Sergeant Eric Johnson.

The roping in ceremony marked the official recognition of the SASH program, which has been in existence since 2009.

The program provides the student population of Sheppard with another avenue for prevention and resource education. It is all too fitting in formally announcing this organization to the Air Force culture during Sexual Assault Awareness Month, bringing even more attention to the fight and goal of ending sexual assault within our society.

The rope, or aiguillette, is teal in color and symbolizes the fight across America to eradicate sexual assault in the Air Force, Department of Defense, and our nation. Moreover, it provides a visual presence among the student population, Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers, and Marines whom they would seek out for information on sexual assault and harassment and the reporting process.

By arming members of the 82nd Training Wing with the appropriate information and holding regular meetings to ensure training is continuous, we are making a commitment to meet this battle head on and hold true to our "Airmen's Creed" and the 82nd Training Wing to "Train and inspire Airmen."

We will be leaders, warriors, and wingman; we will never leave an Airman behind and we will not fail in the battle against sexual assault and harassment. Additionally, by reaching the Airmen at the forefront of their Air Force careers, we are able to affect the needed cultural change and further instill virtues of mutual respect and integrity, the backbone of the Air Force core values.

Each SASH member receives initial training led by a trained Victim Advocate and signs a privacy pledge.
 
Training consists of program "do's and don'ts," discusses the inter-workings of the SASH program and the various resources of the base, 2nd Air Force, the Department of Defense, Wichita Falls and the civilian community near Sheppard.
 
Although SASH members are not authorized to take a report of sexual assault, members are provided tools on dealing with "what if someone approaches them to discuss a sexual assault." However, the members do have access to all of the aforementioned resources and contact numbers for each of them. The members are further trained in intervention techniques.

Changing the culture is the necessity to fight this horrific act and removing it from our society.

The Air Force Chief of Staff, General Welsh, stated it best, "The goal of sexual assault in the United States Air Force is zero. If you're a commander or supervisor and you are not directly and aggressively involved in speaking up about this issue in your unit, then you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."

By implementing several new initiatives, such as SASH, into the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program, the Air Force is substantiating and supporting its new motto, "We own it...we'll solve it...together!"