Chiefs began nightly base patrols in San Diego earlier this year as part of a since-expanded pilot program aiming to control heavy drinking and reckless behavior. (Lenny Ignelzi/The Associated Press)
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As the Navy struggles to defeat the scourge of sexual assault, officials have implemented steps large and small: everything from restricting booze sales and running base patrols — which have even broken up officer shenanigans — to trimming shrubs.
Since October, sailors are getting accustomed to seeing small groups of chiefs and officers roving through barracks and at all-hands clubs. Much like a shore patrol, they’re looking to send home drunken sailors before they put themselves or shipmates at risk.
The patrols of two or three typically walk through barracks until midnight on weekday nights and stay as late as 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Officials say there are now more than 800 sailors who have undergone resident adviser training to help those in their barracks and spot trouble signs.
The patrols already have broken up bad behavior. On one barracks-patrol drive between bases in San Diego, sailors happened upon a questionable scene.
“They came across a couple of drunk officers that were running out in the middle of the road,” said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) David Dearie, the top sailor at Navy Region Southwest, which oversees all the region’s patrols. “So they pulled over, they got the officers, put them in the car and took them back to the installation where they belong. So it’s not just the junior sailors.”
Stronger SAPR force
The Navy is in the midst of a hiring spree to address all aspects of sexual assault. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which investigates “unrestricted” reports of sexual assault, from unwanted touching to rape, is hiring 54 investigators to help process its growing case load. Indeed, reports across the military rose by nearly 50 percent over the first nine months of fiscal 2013.
And civilian “resiliency counselors” will deploy with aircraft carriers and big-deck amphibs. They’ll be able to receive all reports of sexual assault and support the alleged victims.
The Navy launched a worldwide review of bases this year to assess whether sidewalks, benches and places sailors gather were adequately lighted, could be seen from the road and not obstructed by bushes. That effort has wrapped up, one official said.
“We took a round turn on that on every single one of our installations around the world,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, the head of the 21st Century Sailor office, which oversees the Navy’s sexual assault prevention programs, in a Nov. 13 phone interview.
The Navy is running a survey to gauge the scale of the sexual assault problem and get feedback from sailors on how to make it more effective.
About 41,000 sailors and Marines have completed the voluntary questionnaire, online at www.donsapro.navy.mil/donsas.html. The survey takes as little as seven minutes, officials say.