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Pacific Fleet forms task force on sex assault

By Oskar Garcia

Associated Press

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 02:47 p.m. HST, Aug 09, 2013


Top U.S. Navy commanders in the Asia-Pacific region have formed a task force to discuss sexual assault issues as the branch fights to stem a military-wide problem within its ranks.

Leaders in the U.S. Pacific Fleet from all over its wide territory met by teleconference this week for the first time to outline how they'll share successes and failures during monthly meetings.

Fleet Master Chief Marco Ramirez, the fleet's top enlisted sailor, told rank-and-file sailors aboard the U.S.S. Paul Hamilton destroyer about the task force on Thursday during a round-table discussion on sexual assault.

Speaking to more than a dozen sailors and victims' advocates in a conference room, Ramirez said sexual assaults hurt the Navy's ability to be ready when called to duty.

"Our value is our sailors, so I just want to make sure everybody understands that. We're all human beings so we want to take care of you," Ramirez said. "Because if we're worried about these problems, we can't fight."

He told The Associated Press in an interview that the assaults undercut trust among sailors working together and keep the branch from attracting top enlistees.

Captain Darryn James, chief spokesman of Pacific Fleet, said the task force organized by fleet Admiral Cecil Haney includes commanders from Hawaii, California, Washington and Guam, as well as Korea, Japan and Singapore.

The task force and visits by Ramirez to fleet outposts around its command area are examples of several initiatives across the military to reduce sexual assaults.

The Pentagon estimated in May that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 in 2011.

Military leaders are trying to show they can deal with the issue as congressional lawmakers consider stripping commanders of some authority in assault cases.

The U.S. House passed a defense bill in June that would increase punishments and strip commanders of the power to overturn convictions. The Senate has yet to consider the bill.

Greg Jacob, policy director of the Service Women's Action Network, which supports changing authority on sexual assault cases, said commanders would be able to have more blunt conversations if separated from prosecutions.

Commanders could then be held more accountable for what happens under their watch, Jacob said. Putting the "commanders on the line" would "help fix the culture."

Jacob said the Navy has partnered with civilian experts to prosecute sexual assaults.

During the round table, sailors told Ramirez that Navy leaders needed to show changes themselves to usher in a culture change.

Ramirez agreed, saying he didn't want leaders who would bristle at tough decisions. Good leaders are treating sexual assault with the same importance as operational and other everyday issues, he said.

"To have this subject that's on the same playing field tells you that it's got everybody's attention," Ramirez said. "We can't bow down to it."







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NiteMarcher wrote:
Those in charge should be stripped of their rank. I'm sure most of the abuse is not done by sailors themselves, but actually by those who pull rank. Everyone needs to stop making excuses (especially those on the top). Congress has heard this story for far to long. It was about time this issue was taken seriously when presented Washington, DC.
on August 9,2013 | 01:49PM
pcman wrote:
If you have been in the military, you would not criticize commanders. Commanders require their subordinates are trained and briefed on sexual abuse. First of all , most sex abuse are of the date rape variety. After the training, all personnel sign off that they understand these are direct orders of the commander. Some of them are: Don't drink in mixed company. Don't be with the opposite sex in your quarters while you are alone. Don't have sex and change your mind while doing it. If you broke any of these rules, can you honestly claim you were sexually abused without being partially wrong for disobeying an order? This is why many personnel are afraid of repercussions by their commanders which may be demotion, loss of pay or even discharge from the military. Commanders are not always at fault like NiteMarcher believes. In fact, in most cases commanders are not at fault. I was a commander twice in my 20 year career in the military.
on August 9,2013 | 02:29PM
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