N.H. ANG commander speaks out on sexual assault

CONCORD, N.H. -- The men and women of the New Hampshire Air National Guard have a long history of exemplary performance punctuated with genuine altruistic service to our community, our state and our great nation. Our success is without question the consequence of strong teamwork and a commitment to excellence.

However valuable we are, our nation expects of us not only to be successful, but to honor the humanity of one another. This past month, our military has had the spotlight shine bright upon us for our inability to properly deal with serious accusations of sexual assault. In the Air Force alone, we have had three very high profile public cases calling to question our military's commitment to ensure sexual assault is dealt with properly and to provide a culture of transparency and trust where our members feel safe. It appears not only to the Department of Defense, but also to the public who places absolute trust in our military, that we have failed our members.

Sexual assault is a crime and within the DOD alone there were 3,374 reports of sexual assault involving service members as victims or subjects in fiscal year 2012. The Department of Defense suspects there are even more that go unreported.

Members of the 157th,, our greatest strength is our people. We are National Guard strong-not because of mission-not because of location-not because of our weapon system-but because of our people. You and I, (yes every one of you) have the responsibility and the obligation to create and sustain a NHANG culture of stalwart support for one another and one which exhibits absolute intolerance to discrimination, harassment or sexual assault. EVERY ONE of us must be an activist in this effort and NO ONE can be a by-stander.

Crimes of sexual assault fundamentally reflect an absence of value for the dignity of another human being. We pride ourselves on being good WINGMEN and we must honor and care for one another in ways we ourselves would want to be treated. This respect we have for our fellow Airmen is the foundation on which we build this nation's most respected Air National Guard unit. The genuine caring for the safety and security of our fellow Airmen will be the only way we continue to flourish.

Sexual Assault-- verbal, physical, emotional-- is a crime of lasting effects. To deliberately hurt someone else or cause undo anguish and fear is cruel and it is morally wrong. The act of assault may be short lived but the lasting agony can span a lifetime, causing the victim to endure an emotional burden and hurt which may never fully heal.

I ask every one of you to take the stand of zero acceptance for any form of discrimination or sexual assault and to stand with one another to demand a work environment safe for all.

I pledge to you my full measure of authority to ensure we have a work place in the NHANG which is healthy and where any victim of discrimination or assault has the full measure of my support.

Stand with me against this most horrific offense.