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Leaders from across Pacific combat sexual assault

22 Jul 2013 | Lance Cpl. Lena Wakayama

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa - Approximately 140 commanding officers and senior enlisted advisors of III Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installation Pacific commands gathered for the 2013 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Leadership Summit July 15 at the Butler Officers’ Club on Camp Foster.

“The commandant has directed that the MCIPAC leadership review some of the directives that have been issued over the past year, and take a look at what’s been going on congressionally with the issue of sexual assault,” said Sunny R. Street, the sexual assault response coordinator for MCIPAC and Marine Corps Base Camp Smedley D. Butler, referring to the June 2013 congressional hearing on sexual assault in the military.

During the one-and-a-half-day summit, the leaders viewed video clips from the congressional hearing, a video address from the commandant and sergeant major of the Marine Corps, as well as a documentary about sexual assault offenders.

“This leadership summit is about generating ideas on manifesting a command climate that will embrace the idea that our core values and sexual assault are not compatible,” said Paul R. Bless, the SARC for III MEF. “We need a climate where everybody is treated with dignity and respect and has trust in their organization.”

Lt. Gen. Kenneth J. Glueck Jr., the commanding general of III MEF, emphasized the importance leadership plays in combating sexual assault.

“It all starts at the battalion and squadron level, as well as the group and regimental level, because they have the greatest contact with the individual Marines,” said Glueck. “They’re the ones who will have the ability to teach the Marines and make sure they understand the commandant’s intent as we move forward with this program.”

During the summit, the leaders held an open forum to discuss and respond to sexual assault scenarios. 

“I think it’s going to help because all of these commanders are able to share with each other their strategies, techniques and ideas for managing a positive command climate,” Street said. “They are able to mentor each other with respect to sexual assault and talk about what works and what does not work.”

Commanders must continually stress to their Marines the importance of the core values of honor, courage and commitment, according to Glueck. The refocusing on the core values will set the groundwork for the future of the Marines, both operationally as well as with the program.

“We are held to a much higher standard because we are ambassadors here on Okinawa and in Japan,” Glueck said. “This training will pay dividends not only here, but it will carry over as our Marines rotate and go back to the States.”

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