Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CNO speaks Salamanderese

I am sure many of you have had a chance to read Philip Ewing's article on the sexual assault confab,
An internal Navy Department investigation has found widespread problems with the Navy and Marine Corps’ programs on sexual assault prevention, top service leaders said Tuesday in Washington, where they began a two-day summit aimed at finding new ways to stop sex assaults in the naval services.

Almost three out of five sailors and Marines believe sexual assault is a problem in the force; far too few victims actually report they’ve been attacked; too few crimes are prosecuted; and unit-level training is inconsistent, said Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, whose speech opened the conference at the Washington Navy Yard.

Many sailors and Marines don’t know the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault; many don’t know how to report either one if it takes place; and many are simply bored by the training that is supposed to help prevent attacks, Mabus said.
It seems we go through this exercise on a regular basis. A few things I do know - it is important to focus on what you define as sexual assault. The way we define it sometimes, if I wander by a any party of young 20-somethings for more than an hour, I see at least 6-10 cases of it - but everyone is smiling, laughing, and generally being young people with a BAC over .08.

Yes, sexual assault happens in the Navy - but it has nothing to do with the military culture or our not trying to minimize it. We are a reflection of society.

Another thing is that more training isn't the answer. The CNO knows that.
“As soon as you start talking about ‘the annual training’ as ‘something that needs be done,’ I’d say you’re dealing with a high probability of failure,” Roughead said. “Because if you simply say, ‘We’re going do to annual training for everybody,’ being a bureaucratic organization, we will do just that: We will check the box and move on,” Roughead said.

That applies not only from the abstract position of Big Navy, but all the way down to the deckplates, he said.

“If a sailor, who I consider to be the most perceptive creature on the face of the Earth, sees something that’s just being done just to check a box, that’s exactly how they’re going to treat it, and it really needs to be much more thoughtful than that,” Roughead said.
Bravo Zulu to the CNO for saying that. Every part of that statement is accurate. The CNO shows a little Salamander now and then - in a good way. I owe him another beer.

The "what next" is tougher. More training isn't the answer. Different training? Perhaps. Accountability, honest disclosure, publicity, and transparency? Hey, there is an idea or two.

As we
pack more and more females into the Navy, this problem will not get better. It is a fact of the demographics we have decided on. We do not help ourselves when the enlisted barracks of 2009 in many places resembles an un-monitored, mixed-gender dorm at a junior college - with the expected results.

As one Fleet First Class emailed me,
My only question to those in charge is this, are we taking a look at each one of these assaults to find a common pattern. I can give them a couple of hints, hormones and alcohol. Both of these items are a primary cause of sexual assault in the military and the civilian world.
Add to that the fact that we have a disproportionally young organization (as we are a military, not a corporation) - our data will be skewed towards those things impacted by hormones.

Hey, at least we can have
permanent makeup now.

One last thing on this topic - there is one thing I would bet they didn't talk too much about at the two-day navel picking; false claims and their impact on the career and private lives of the falsely accused. That also happens.

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