PINELLAS PARK, FL, UNITED STATES
PINELLAS PARK, Fla. – Soldiers from the 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team came together to take the Florida National Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Pledge during Sexual Assault Awareness month in April.
“The pledge means this is a personal commitment to ensure everyone’s safety from sexual assault, by not condoning or ignoring the act,” said Staff Sgt. Alicia Smith, a medical readiness sergeant assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 53rd Brigade Support Battalion. “It’s a promise not to be a bystander to the problem; be a part of the solution.”
The theme of this year’s campaign was “Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know your part. Do your part.”
“This theme reinforces the responsibility of each of us to play an active role in preventing this brutal and demeaning crime,” said Maj. Gen Michael A. Calhoun, the adjutant general of the Florida National Guard, in a message to the Florida National Guard, April 14. “Although we’ve made tremendous progress, we still have issues of sexual assault within our organization.”
In the same message, Calhoun stressed the importance of providing service members with positive environment free from inappropriate behavior.
“I commit to you that I will do everything I can to create a positive command climate in which inappropriate behavior is not tolerated, victims are supported, and perpetrators are held accountable,” said Calhoun. “I expect you to make the same commitment”
Along with the adjutant general, the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator’s Office for the Guard issued a challenge members of the Florida National Guard to take a pledge against sexual assault, to intervene when something doesn’t feel right, to act in ways that discourage sexual violence and to motivate others to do the same.
“Service members have the opportunity to outwardly express their support of the program,” said Capt. Melissa A. Schuster, the Sexual Assault Response coordinator for Florida National Guard. “It is a time for service members to be acknowledged for the hard work they do every day standing up to sexual assault that we don’t get to see.”
Soldiers from each of the six battalions in the 53rd IBCT participated in the pledge.
As a battalion, we stand in support of the same program that our brigade commander and adjutant general stand for, said Capt. Daniel S. Brown, the adjutant assigned to the 53rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. We are letting our Soldiers, both male and female, know if they are guilty of sexual assault, we will not stand for it; if they are victims of sexual assault, they have leaders that support.
While each Soldier recited the same words, the pledge held a different meaning to each Soldier.
“The act of taking this pledge causes individual Soldiers not only to hold themselves personally accountable, but also accountable for the actions of their battle buddies,” said Capt. Ryan Starkey, commander of Company D, 2nd Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment. “This pledge symbolizes Soldiers standing together against an issue that creates a toxic and demoralizing environment within the unit.”
Leaders from all levels recognized the devastating effect sexual assault has on the victim and the Army family as a whole.
Sexual assault has a very negative effect on our Soldiers, families and friends, said Command Sgt. Maj. Virgil L. Robinson, the command sergeant major for 53rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion. When this happens, it must be dealt with immediately and accurately and at no time should the victim be discriminated against.
The pledge was also a way for leaders to let their Soldier’s know where they stand in regards to sexual assault and harassment.
“As a company commander, my adamant and persistent stance against sexual assault will ensure that my Soldiers always know where I stand on the matter,” said Starkey. “Good leaders should respond quickly, firmly and fairly to sexual assault allegations; great leaders take the initiative to prevent it all together.”
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This work, 53rd IBCT pledges to combat sexual assault, by SSG Aidana Baez, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.