Sexual assault: Not in our Air Force

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. C.K. Hyde
  • 86th Airlift Wing commander
Sexual assault is a cancer on our Air Force and core values. The abuse of recruits at Basic Military Training by those charged with training them to be Airmen casts a dark shadow over our professionalism and undermines trust in our Air Force. I, however, want to be clear. Lackland Air Force Base and Basic Military Training are not the problem. They are symptoms of attitudes and corrosive environs, which if left unchecked, erode who we are as Airmen.

We have made positive gains in gender integration within our Air Force, but we mistook incremental gain for ultimate success. We became complacent and believed we were "good enough." We used past progress as an excuse that too often tolerated sexual harassment in the guise of false "tradition." We tolerated an environment that forced female Airmen to endure sexual diminution in order to be accepted as part of our team. This must end.

We, America's Airmen, must fix the problem. Many can talk, but we are the only ones who can create an environment free of sexual harassment and assault.
Nineteen percent of our Air Force are female Airmen -- fellow guardians of freedom and justice. In an Air Force that is half as large as when I entered service, we need every Airman, male and female, contributing at 100 percent in order to deliver combat power in air, space and cyberspace.

Sexual bigotry is morally wrong and has no place in our Air Force. Left unaddressed, it erodes the contributions of one fifth of our Airmen and eviscerates our ability to fly, fight and win.

We are all Americans. We are defenders of a creed that believes all are created equal and endowed with unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This ought to be self evident, but elements within our culture have undermined the very equality we claim to champion.

We are all American Airmen. We are part of the one percent of all Americans who defend our nation in a time of war. We wear our name and the name of our professional family on our uniform -- in my case, Hyde, and for all of us, the U.S. Air Force. We are part of an elite team with a high calling, and it is unconscionable that we would treat part of our family, male or female, as an object or tolerate any behavior which injures our family.

Seven hundred reported sexual assaults in our Air Force this year is damning. Our goal is and should be zero sexual assaults.

I call on every Airman at Ramstein Air Base to eliminate the aspects of our culture which contribute to sexual assault, create an environment where every American, local national and Airman is treated with dignity and respect, and strengthen our team by eliminating this cancer on our professional honor.