Implementing Green Dot program becomes personal for Wyo. Air National Guard airman

Jan 5, 2017

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Air Force is undergoing a culture change when it comes to awareness and prevention of sexual assault and sexual harassment. This change in strategy focuses on empowering the military’s most valuable assets – its people.

Up to now, sexual assault prevention training has been centered on what steps airmen can take as a bystander to prevent sexual assault or harassment. Scenarios describing some of the circumstances in which sexual assault and harassment might occur were presented to identify participants as perpetrators or as victims. The Green Dot strategy focuses ways to build positive relationships and steps airman can take to foster a culture free from power-based personal violence.

“It’s so much better to focus on the 98 percent, who are good people doing the right things every day,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Hey, Green Dot implementer and maintenance journeyman assigned to the 790th Maintenance Squadron, F.E. Warren Air Force Base.

All of the program implementers are volunteers, and some have volunteered because the subject of sexual assault is something that hits close to home.

For Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Smith, 153rd Airlift Wing communications flight quality assurance noncommissioned officer, prevention of sexual assault is a subject that is not only important to her as an implementer, but also to her as a former victim.

Since then, Smith has sought out counseling to deal with the trauma associated with the assault and has volunteered to help others as a Green Dot implementer. In this way, she uses her past experiences to answer questions from participants about how each airman could respond to a possible violent situation. Smith describes how the smallest act of confronting or distracting a would-be assailant could prevent a violent act or ‘red dot’ from occurring. By not tolerating violence, the training shows how each airman becomes part of a coalition of green dots which will eventually replace the red dots.

“It gives people a positive role,” said Smith. “It’s the small things that add up. It’s empowering people instead of pointing fingers.”

Much like the Department of Defense’s stance on driving while under the influence of alcohol and drugs, there is also zero tolerance for power-based violence. The objective of Green Dot training is to reduce sexual assaults and harassment, but it aims to do even more. The Air Force has recently sought to shift this from a sole focus of eliminating sex-related conduct to the eradication of all forms of power-based violence.

It’s no longer just about teaching people to be reactive, but rather, the changing of behaviors overall in society.

“It’s not just an Air Force problem,” said Hey, “It’s a people problem.”

During Green Dot workshops, implementers build upon the core competencies using their own experiences and adapt to the diversity of the participants. Airmen are encouraged to explore any doubts they may have about what they could do when encountering a violent situation. The new look of the training replaces the playlist of video scenarios and slide presentations with relevant experiences from motivated implementers and research-based content aimed at changing the culture of which we are all a part.

Photos available on Flickr  

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