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Caring for Airmen at all levels

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- I recently attended Noncommissioned Officer Academy and during that time I learned a lot.

There was one thing that caught my attention, which was the discipline part of our lectures. Being a paralegal it hit home, especially being in the defense side. I have been a defense paralegal for three years, and during this time we have had clients that I truly believed deserved a second chance. I also got refreshed in all our tools (feedback sessions, counseling, and so on).

There have been a lot of times when we see clients that have had a lot of disciplinary actions already, and there are times when a client got an extreme punishment for their first infraction. When I meet with the clients there are some I learn a lot about, even during our short time, which makes me wonder if supervisors really know their Airmen. My point is we need to ensure we are using all our tools, starting from feedback sessions, to take advantage of this time to really get to know our Airmen. Really get to know your Airmen; this does not fall short from what has been instilled in us.

"Taking care of our Airmen" is what has been promoted by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody, but do we really do it? I can honestly say I try my best at talking to some of the Airmen we see each day. During those times I realize not everyone gets the care that is being promoted in our Air Force. I am not blaming anyone, but am simply pointing out things I have noticed in the years that I have been a defense paralegal.

I want to bring up sexual assault only because I believe it is something that needs to be prevented, and I truly believe that many times it can be. It starts at the supervisory level; ensure our Airmen are really aware of the consequences that come from drinking and having sex. There are ample ways to show those Airmen the consequences by sending them to observe a court-martial on base (Lucky for us we have three bases around us), getting information from the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, reviewing the Air Force Sexual Assault Court-Martial Convictions adobe file and utilizing the Area Defense Counsel. If it's awkward to talk about sexual assault, get over it. It needs to be part of your feedback sessions. It happens so much in our Air Force and mainly with our younger generation and everyone needs to be aware, warned, trained, etc. Ensure you did your part and have no regrets.

Ask yourself a question, what you would do if these Airmen were your son or daughter? How would you feel if they were now addressed as a "sex offender" or "victim of a sexual assault"? Are you doing your part to inform the Airmen or are you waiting until something triggers the conversation instead? By then it may be too late. Most of the Airmen we see are not predators. Keep that in mind. Have you read an Article "Start by Believing - The Accused" by Col. Daniel J. Higgins? You can also find more information in this article regarding Airmen accused of sexual assault.

Our responsibility is at the lowest level to "take care of our Airmen". We do this by utilizing all the tools that are available to us in order to help prevent misconduct, or in this case another sexual assault case.

For any questions you can contact Peterson AFB ADC. The Area Defense Counsel provides Air Force members who are suspected of an offense or facing potential adverse administrative action with legal representation. The ADC is an experienced judge advocate outside the local chain of command and offers Airmen the ability to receive completely confidential legal advice. We are located in Building 350, Suite 2041 and our contact information is DSN 834-7611 or 719-556-7611.