AEDC commander proclaims April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month across the complex

  • Published
  • By Bradley Hicks
  • AEDC Public Affairs

Arnold Engineering Development Complex leadership have pledged to shine a spotlight on sexual assault prevention and create a culture across the complex in which survivors are supported with the signing of a proclamation recognizing April as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month at Arnold.

AEDC Commander Col. Randel Gordon signed the proclamation in his conference room at Arnold Air Force Base, headquarters of AEDC, on April 1, the first day SAAPM is observed nationally each year. Gordon was joined by AEDC Deputy Director Kevin Muckerheide, AEDC Senior Enlisted Leader Chief Master Sgt. Jennifer Cirricione, Integrated Prevention and Response Director Lee Smith, Prevention Specialist Joey Vap, and staff from the recently-established Arnold Sexual Assault Prevention Response office.

The proclamation reads as follows:

“Whereas, Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is a reminder of the constant impact this crime has on our mission, our base and our organization. All service members, [Department of Defense] civilians, contractor personnel and family members must use this opportunity to continue in creating a safe and compassionate community for our Arnold family; and

“Whereas, every individual, every unit, every community has a responsibility to recognize and act to reduce sexual assault and harassment. We can make a difference. We can prevent another child or adult from becoming a victim. We can shape an environment that refuses to accept crimes against others and offers support from the Arnold family; and

“Whereas, the theme for the Department of Defense’s 2024 campaign is, ‘Step Forward. Prevent. Report. Advocate.’ Among our people, in our units, there are survivors. For those who have had to live this reality, the impacts may affect them every day. Team Arnold will care, believe and support while making part of our mission eliminating sexual assault.

“Now, therefore, we, Arnold AFB leaders do hereby proclaim April 2024 as Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month throughout the base community and call upon personnel and their families to act. If we see conduct that could potentially lead to sexual assault, we need to step in and prevent it to the best of our ability and support those who have already been hurt. Everyone must make this a priority so every Airman can fly high together.”

Following the signing, Gordon emphasized in a message to the workforce the responsibility AEDC team members have to one another in preventing sexual assault.

“Let’s talk reality. At some point in your life, either you or someone that you know, someone that you love and care about, is going to be the victim, potentially, of sexual assault when you look at the numbers,” Gordon said. “If you’ve ever been in that number, if you’ve seen this and you’ve had experience with this, you understand how this violates so much human dignity, that it rips up people’s lives, shatters them in some cases, creates a scar that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

“As Airmen, what I’ve always believed is we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We absolutely do not tolerate that type of behavior within our ranks, and we make it a point to hold ourselves accountable to that so, as we see behavior that kind of lends itself toward a sexual harassment or a sexual assault, we intervene. We do the right thing and stop that from getting much worse.

“We want to use April as a chance to highlight this and to make sure that we’re putting it squarely in our focus that these are the things that we as an organization, as a team, as team and family AEDC, simply do not tolerate.”

Although the proclamation effected the inaugural SAAPM at Arnold, SAAPM is observed by civilian and military communities across the U.S. each April. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center worked to establish the first SAAPM in 2001, and it has occurred annually since. It was started to raise awareness about sexual assault and educate the public on ways to prevent it.

As referenced in the proclamation, the theme of the 2024 DOD campaign is “Step Forward. Prevent. Report. Advocate.”

Gary Johnson, Sexual Assault Response Coordinator at Arnold AFB, also signed his name to the proclamation declaring April as SAAPM at Arnold.

“It is great to have support from our senior leadership in creating a culture that builds trust with those who will potentially need to report a sexual assault or sexual harassment that ensures eyes won’t be closed, heads won’t be turned, it won’t be denied, and it will not be tolerated,” Johnson said. “It says that we as an organization will stand on what is right and support those who are negatively impacted by sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

Gordon added sexual assault prevention and support for survivors will remain a focus across AEDC well beyond the month of April.

“This is a standard that we hold ourselves throughout the entire year, 24/7, 365, as Airmen that we simply do not tolerate these sorts of things and we intervene and we help one another so that we prevent it,” Gordon said, “and, in the event in does happen, that we are also in the mode of trying to help out the folks that have been impacted.”

The Arnold SAPR office has events planned throughout the month of April on base to bring attention to SAAPM. These include “I walk to prevent sexual assault” walks each Tuesday throughout the month beginning at 11 a.m. on the AEDC Trail behind Building 100. Arnold team members are invited to participate in these walks and to join AEDC leadership for a group photo to commemorate SAAPM and show support for survivors. This photo will be taken on April 30 at 10 a.m. in front of Building 100.

The Arnold AFB SAPR office can be reached at 931-454-4272 during the normal business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Sexual Assault Victim Advocates with the office may be reached any time via the SAPR 24/7 Helpline at 931-581-7494.

Those needing assistance may also contact the DOD Safe Helpline at 1-877-995-5247.