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Do something

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Jeffrey G. Palomino
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Staff Judge Advocate

"What can I do to make a difference?"

If you're like me, this is the question you ask yourself about sexual assault in the Air Force. As legal professionals we're trained to respond to any argument. But when you read so many conflicting reports about sexual assault in the media, when you hear differing solutions including some that don't address problems being put forward, when you want to integrate various professionals in the fight, and when you work daily with commanders who unequivocally take sexual assault seriously, it's hard to know what to do to make a lasting impact.

It all reminds me of one of my favorite recent songs from an artist named Matthew West. The song is called "Do Something." In the song, West sings of a person who looks out on all the world's problems and wonders who will do something about them. Then, as the lyrics crescendo, the person realizes it's not someone else's job to do something - it's his job.

Here at the 62nd Airlift Wing legal office, we're doing something. Some critics of the military justice system claim that commanders do not have the legal expertise to make decisions in sexual assault matters.  Although commanders receive a level of legal training and are about to participate in a new, even more advanced, senior officer legal orientation course, we believe we can do something to continue to equip commanders to deal with the many changes being implemented in response to this serious crime.

Our response is to provide additional opportunities for training here at the wing, and we are doing just that Feb. 19. In a three-hour workshop called "The Legal FAQs of Sexual Assault: What Every Commander and First Sergeant Needs to Know," the 62nd AW legal office will train more than 50 Team McChord commanders and first sergeants who represent five different major commands.

Topics include unlawful command influence; the elements of Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice; commander-relevant updates outlined in the National Defense Authorization Act; victim collateral misconduct; command action against retaliation; and the role of Special Victims' Counsel.

In addition, we'll provide a thorough overview of sexual assault case processing (specifically, who does what where and when here at McChord). We'll conclude the event with a rapid fire Q&A session with a panel consisting of our sexual assault response coordinator, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations detachment commander and the Staff Judge Advocate.

It took no convincing of my wing commander to do such an event. He loved the idea out of the gate. Like the many Air Force commanders we work for across the wing, he recognizes the critical importance of this topic and that we cannot afford to get it wrong - ever.

In the end, change always begins with one person and the response to sexual assault is no exception. So, next time you're tempted to wonder what others are doing about sexual assault in the Air Force, instead, ask yourself, "What can I do?"

The answer: Do something.

You and the Air Force will be the better for it.