By Rear Adm. Sean Buck
Director, 21st Century Sailor Office
I’ve just returned from my trip to San Diego. It was my first as the director of the newly-formed 21st Century Sailor Office. One of the goals of my trip was to introduce myself and this office to the Fleet. It was an eye-opening week as I realized how few of the Fleet Sailors knew who I was or what I did. So after explaining the objectives of the 21st Century Sailor Office, I dove into the second goal for which I traveled to San Diego. With nearly every group I met, I asked them if they felt as though they’ve been overwhelmed with sexual assault prevention and response training. Nearly every hand in the room went up.
However, training will continue for as long as we still battle the crime of sexual assault in our Navy. What I needed to find out now was – what’s the best and most effective way for Sailors to receive that training. I didn’t have the answer myself, so my second goal of the trip was to solicit the ideas and advice from the Fleet. I believe that sexual assault is a Fleet problem. Fleet Sailors are going to provide the Fleet solutions.
I can provide the resources and the policy from my office in D.C. What I learned on this trip was how Sailors think we can overcome the problem of sexual assault in our Navy.
I held many all hands calls, attended a Coalition of Sailors Against Destructive Decisions meeting, flew out to sea to spend the night on the USS Wayne E. Meyer, met with chaplains, sexual assault response coordinates and victim advocates.
From everyone I heard that death by PowerPoint is no longer acceptable.
Computer-based training is ineffective.
So what were some of the ideas I heard? Small groups of peer-led discussion. CSADD chapters taking the lead and producing skits to teach life lessons to their fellow Sailors. Training customized for different communities within the Navy and for different ranks and age groups.
The Naval Postgraduate School hosted a SAPR forum this week in San Diego. Sailors, both enlisted and officer, from various rates and of various ranks, came together for three days and formulated ideas on how to best message sexual assault prevention and response. Their innovative ideas and the way they presented them amazed me. It made me look at our SAPR messaging in a whole new way, a way that will hopefully reach Sailors on a personal level.
I also met with administrators from the University of San Diego. Universities are struggling with the same issues of sexual assault on their campuses. I met with the school president, Dr. Mary Lyons, herself a retired Navy captain, and the assistant vice president for student wellness, Dr. Moises Baron, and members of the university’s C.A.R.E. Advocacy Program, which is similar in design to our victim advocates.
We can’t go at this sexual assault problem alone. It is a problem throughout our nation. We need to work with our civilian counterparts and create a civil-military partnership. If we can combine Navy resources with university resources, we can get at this issue.
I’m amazed at the resiliency I’m seeing in so many of our Sailors, pushing through stressful jobs and finding ways to balance work and life. I thank each and everyone of you for sharing your ideas and encourage you to keep sharing. I plan on visiting other Fleet concentration areas over the next few months, so I ask you to continue to brainstorm. Together, we will overcome the sexual assault problem we face today.