BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. -- Victim advocates and peer influencers from installations across Air Force Global Strike Command came together June 21-25 at the Cyber Innovation Center in Bossier City, to tackle sexual assault prevention and response.
In this first-of-its-kind event, volunteers convened at the CIC to share ideas and best practices during the AFGSC Peer Influencer Conference. Gen. Timothy Ray, commander of AFGSC, and Chief Master Sgt. Charles Hoffman, command chief, kicked off the conference.
“We created this event with the intent to bring together Airmen from across the command to provide new ideas to our sexual assault prevention and response programs while also pushing to further evolve our Striker culture for the better,” Ray said. “Leadership is going to fix this problem. Not policy. Not programs. Leadership.”
Guided by Vicki Shepherd, AFGSC Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program manager, participants teamed up with local university representatives and facilitators to further promote a collaborative environment — breaking into small groups, having in-depth discussions, brainstorming solutions, going over case studies and listening to firsthand accounts from victims.
“Gen. Ray is being proactive with respect to sexual assault,” Shepherd said. “He has a group of 30 young influencers throughout the command that are helping him come up with the narrative and strategy for getting after sexual assault. We don’t want this to be another training. We want this to be alive.”
Throughout discussions, advocates highlighted one of Ray’s top initiatives — Striker Culture — and focused on making sure people are treating each other with respect and emphasizing professionalism.
“You don’t just go after sexual assault, you go after the things that lead to sexual assault,” said 1st Lt. Emily Griffiths, a participating volunteer at the conference. “It’s a matter of treating each other right and making sure that we’re all on the same page of respect, consent and being comfortable having those conversations.”
At the week’s end, the participating Airmen presented Ray with their findings and recommended a way forward for the command.
“We don’t want it to be another computer-based training where you are just clicking through and that’s it,” Griffiths said. “We really do want to make a long term and real change for a better Air Force.”
Lt. Gen. Anthony Cotton, AFGSC deputy commander, provided closing comments to the event and commended the work of everyone involved in the conference.
“Thank you for working tirelessly to help develop viable and innovative solutions,” Cotton said. “It is clear we have some of the most dedicated minds focused on creating a healthy and safe environment for everyone. I’m incredibly proud of your work. We still have more work to do but with this kind of effort I have no doubt we’ll make a difference and accelerate change for the better.”