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Odierno to leaders: We have lost soldiers' trust

Jun. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told attendees of the sixth annual Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Summit on June 10 that sexual assault and harassment is the biggest problem facing the service. Above: Odierno testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing 2012 in Washington, D.C.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told attendees of the sixth annual Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Summit on June 10 that sexual assault and harassment is the biggest problem facing the service. Above: Odierno testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Army)
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When Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno visits units around the Army, most commanders tell him the same thing about their sexual assault climates: We don’t have a problem here.

But Odierno disagrees.

“We’re not seeing ourselves,” he said. “We still have people out there who tolerate sexual assault and sexual harassment.”

He spoke as hundreds of general officers, including every two- and three-star general in the Army, gathered today for a two-day conference focused on what Odierno has called the biggest problem facing the service.

The sixth annual Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Prevention Summit brought together leaders from every corner of the Army to Joint Base Andrews, Md., to discuss how they can respond to survivors of abuse, and prevent future abuses as well.

Sex assault may happen even in all-male units, where it’s possible there are perpetrators and predators, as well as a few men who have been victimized.

The Army has set a goal of 100 percent reporting of and a 75 percent reduction in assault cases by 2016.

To get there, Odierno said, soldiers have to approach the problem in the same way they have approached other serious recent threats.

“When we have an [improvised explosive device], every soldier knows what to do. We have a battle drill,” Odierno said.

He said that soldiers know how to detect IEDs, how to get to the left of them for further investigation and how to stop them from exploding. In the same way, every soldier needs to understand what their role is in preventing sexual assault.

“Guess what? Sexual assault is maiming our soldiers,” he said, just like IEDs downrange.

Odierno laid out five imperatives for restoring trust between soldiers and their leaders while reducing the instances of sexual assault in the Army:

■ Protect victims, prevent offenders. Provide care, rights, privacy to survivors.

■ Professionally investigate, take appropriate action.

■ Create an appropriate, positive command climate, where trust and respect are the cornerstone.

■ Hold individuals, units, commanders and leaders accountable.

■ Fully engage the chain of command, and hold it responsible and accountable for everything that goes on in that unit.

The summit comes a week after Odierno, Army Secretary John McHugh and top leaders from the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard sat before a Senate Armed Services Committee panel to answer questions about the high rates of sexual assault and harassment in the military.

Also in recent weeks, Sgt. 1st Class Michael McClendon of the United States Military Academy faced charges including filming naked cadets, and Fort Hood, Texas SHARP coordinator Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen came under investigation amid allegations of running a small-time prostitution ring and the alleged assault of another soldier.

On June 7, McHugh announced that the Army had suspended U.S. Army Japan commander Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison for failing to properly investigate an allegation of sexual assault.

Leaders will return to the conference tomorrow for a second day of seminars and presentations.

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