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21st Century Sailor Office: Where we’ve been, where we’re going

By Rear Adm. Sean Buck
Director, 21st Century Sailor Office

It has been approximately one year since we stood up the Navy’s 21st Century Sailor Office. Bringing the various programs together under one umbrella has streamlined the process for establishing policies to better take care of our Sailors and their families and to build their resilience. We recognize that a lot of the issues we have in the Navy stem from interrelated destructive behaviors. Sharing information and prevention strategies under the purview of one office has made it easier to tackle each challenge and work towards eliminating destructive behaviors from our Navy.

I’d like to review the offices of the 21st Century Sailor and inform you of the progress we’ve made over the past year and what is planned for this upcoming year. Check out the conversation I had with MC1 Elliott Fabrizio:

Sexual Assault Prevention and Response

We have focused on responding to and preventing sexual assault, ensuring we’re training everyone to recognize what it is, how to prevent it, care for victims and hold offenders accountable. The expansion of a response system and awareness and training efforts show progress through an increase of reports, a result of the improved trust our Sailors have in their command structures that their reports will be taken seriously.

In Fiscal Year 2013 there were 1,057 reports of sexual assault, a 46 percent increase from FY12 (726 reports). There were 801 unrestricted reports of sexual assault in FY13, up from 527 reports in FY12, an increase of 52 percent.  There were 256 restricted reports of sexual assault in FY13, up from 199 in FY12, an increase of 29 percent.

This year, we’re zeroing in on bystander intervention, because regardless of what policies we write, our office won’t be the one standing there when a Sailor is about to make a bad choice. However, one of his or her shipmates – one of you – will be there. We need Sailors to step in and help their shipmate – and this goes beyond just stopping a sexual assault. Bystander intervention can help prevent any number of destructive behaviors and decisions. Starting in August, we’ll be providing a new skills-based bystander intervention training curriculum, to better enable all of us to effectively and safely intervene when needed.

Sexual Harassment Prevention

Many times, sexual assault stems from sexual harassment and we’re just as committed to eliminating incidents of sexual harassment from our ranks and our workplace by creating an appropriate culture and upholding the Navy’s core values.

The FY13 DOD Report on Substantiated Incidents of Sexual Harassment in the Armed Forces was released to the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services on May 15. During FY13, there were 180 formal complaints, of which 103 were substantiated and 49 informal complaints, of which 24 were substantiated. Alleged offenders were predominantly male, co-workers in the same unit, the majority in pay-grades from E5 to E9. Military installations were the primary locations of misconduct identified in substantiated sexual harassment incidents.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide prevention is an all hands effort, all the time. Every life lost to suicide is one too many. The only number that counts in suicide prevention is zero. In Calendar Year 2013, the number of suicides decreased by more than 26 percent. We’re not claiming victory, but we’re moving in the right direction to drive this number to zero.

After a spike in suicides in the medical community, BUMED and our office led a compressive review of suicides from 2011 and 2012. Navy Medicine began an initiative called “Every Sailor, Every Day” which emphasizes leadership contact for every command member, particularly those in the midst of professional or personal transitions. We’re incorporating this initiative Navy-wide.

Last year, the Suicide Prevention Office introduced the “NavyTHRIVE” concept that addresses the stressors and challenges commonly associated with Navy life to encourage Sailors, families and civilians to empower themselves by taking personal responsibility for their health and wellness.

Another initiative of this office has been the Operational Stress Control training that deploying units must receive within six months of deployment. Mobile training teams provide training to deploying carrier and expeditionary strike groups. Facilitators help Sailors and leaders regain and sustain their resilience and to get ahead of stress issues before they manifest themselves into destructive thoughts and acts.

Hazing Prevention

Commanders are taking hazing seriously. Hazing reporting has increased over the last year since the office was established in February 2013. Prior to the establishment of N174, the Navy had 24 reported incidents in FY11 and 28 reported incidents in FY12. After N174 stood up, the Navy had 36 reported incidents in FY13 and currently has 17 reported incidents in FY14. Substantiated incidents have increased over this time as well – FY11-16, FY12-20, FY13-33, and FY14-16. Increased reporting and substantiated incidents shows awareness has increased amongst commanders and their Sailors.

We’re working to incorporate signature behaviors into existing training to assist in the prevention of destructive behaviors in the fleet. The office is developing an OPNAV instruction to further clarify and provide guidance on hazing and bullying. Bullying prevention is being added because the Navy feels like this issue needs attention as it is another form of destructive behavior and we want to get ahead of it. We will address not only physical and mental bullying, but also cyber bullying.

Navy Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention

Navy has zero tolerance for drug use, including the use of designer and synthetic chemical compounds, such as Spice. In December 2013, we added testing for synthetic marijuana to the drug panel. Since then, we’ve seen a very limited number of positive drug tests for Spice.

NADAP introduced the “Keep What You’ve Earned” campaign in 2013 which encourages responsible drinking among Sailors by celebrating the achievements in their naval career. Through recognition of their hard work and dedication, Sailors are reminded of their accomplishments — and how much they have to lose if they make a poor choice regarding alcohol.

Physical Readiness Program and Nutrition Program

The 21st Century Sailor Office is about total Sailor fitness. Physical Readiness Program provides the training for command fitness leaders and gives guidance on the Physical Fitness Assessment. We’re working on a new algorithm for the Physical Readiness Test elliptical and bike portions. Currently, the bike and elliptical PRT is easy to pass, but difficult to score an “Outstanding.” We’re looking to make the algorithm fairer in that respect.

The Nutrition Office promotes nutritional awareness so Sailors can make healthy food choices. Recently, the Navy Nutrition Program teamed up with the DOD Combat Feeding Research and Development Center and the Culinary Institute of America to improve and create 50 new recipes and replace some of the decades-old Armed Forces Recipe Service Cards. Expect to see some new food choices in the mess lines!

Family Readiness Program

The Family Readiness Program enhances Sailor readiness and family preparedness by supporting the Sailor and their family. Our programs, policies and services continue to evolve to meet the needs of our Sailors and their families.

Keep a look out for these programs and initiatives from the 21st Century Sailor Office. Leave your comments and questions for me and my office in the comments section. I’ll see you out in the fleet.


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