Story by William Selby, Defense Media Activity
For service members and the U.S. military as a whole, there are certainly no shortages of obstacles you face as a unit or individually on a daily basis. It’s through trust, leadership and diversity that we overcome those obstacles, including sexual assault.
On Thursday, April 10, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, participated in his first ever DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable to discuss sexual assault awareness and prevention. During the roundtable, Gen. Dempsey stressed the importance of trust among service members saying, “What makes the U.S. military exceptional is the bond of trust that must bind us together because of what we ask young men and women to do. That’s why this particular issue is so corrosive and damaging to the military.”
The chairman said it starts with young leadership, “to include our youngest leaders who are alert to, and vigilant for, the kind of behaviors that lead up to a sexual assault. They’ve got to be committed to it when it occurs and that means no bystanders.”
Reiterating his discussions with U.S. Military Academy Cadets and U.S. Naval Academy Midshipmen, Dempsey said that upon graduation they’ll immediately become the most junior officers in the ranks and also leaders in this issue.
“I wanted them to agree with me that I’ll work it from the top if they work it from the bottom,” he said. “It’s a call to arms for everyone in the military who consider themselves to be a leader in their military profession, to own their profession and to own this issue.”
The issue of trust isn’t limited to just service members and their superiors though. It includes lawmakers who would think that maybe it’s time to include civilian courts to prosecute instead of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and the commanders who make the decisions to prosecute. “In my conversations with members of Congress it is my strong belief that these issues must be solved with commanders and not around them,” he said.
Even though the chairman would like to see justice remain within the military’s UCMJ, he wouldn’t oppose civilian courts being involved if that would solve the problem. “If it occurs that after a period of very intense and renewed emphasis on this that we can’t solve it, I‘m not going to fight it being taken away from us,” he said. “I want to solve the problem. I just happen to think we can solve it best with commanders at this point. If this is demonstrated to be ineffective then I will no longer provide advice that it should stay in the chain of command.”
When asked about previously closed military occupational specialties being open to women now, and if they will put women at greater risk, the chairman said he thought it would have the opposite effect, citing diversity and the strength it provides our military.
“I actually believe that perception and reality of being equals in the profession will have the impact of reducing or could have the impact given the other initiatives we are also trying to reinforce, of reducing the incidents of sexual assault because now you’re seeing yourself as more of a teammate than as two different people doing two different things inside of one profession,” he said.
The chairman wrapped up the roundtable by stating, “This is a call to arms to leaders, officers, non-commissioned officers and civilians to take this profession and help it overcome this challenge, particularly this issue which is so corrosive to the bond of trust that holds us together.”
Listen to the audio from the roundtable.
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