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Wing Observes Sexual Assault Awareness With 5K

FS GABRESKI ANG, NY - --

Airmen of the 106th Rescue Wing here at FS Gabreski took time out from the April drill to participate in a 5k walk/run that featured costumed members toting cumbersome items - all in an effort to shed light on a weighty issue, Sexual Assault Awareness Month.


Nationally recognized, SAAM is an annual opportunity to highlight and promote Department of Defense and Service policies addressing sexual assault prevention and response, according to the DoD website. The policies are in place to establish a climate of education and training to create an environment in which sexual assault and attitudes that promote it are not tolerated; to ensure victims receive needed support; and to ensure offenders are held accountable.


Colonel Thomas Owens II, 106th RQW Commander, stood before members to thank them for taking part in the walk/run. He emphasized the importance of Airmen being respectful to one another in defense of the country. Owens also stressed in order to be a strong fighting force, Airmen must be good wingmen.


Captain Linda Varela, 106th RQW deployment officer, is the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator, and is responsible for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program here. According to Varela, sexual assault is a problem in the military and there are more bystanders than victims. Varela stated education will help people recognize a sexual assault, become proactive, and even intervene to stop the assault.


"You bring a different mix to the table so it's not white noise anymore," Captain Varela said of the program, referring to walkers and runners clad in wigs, capes, and pajama pants for the walk/run. Others lugged loaded backpacks while taking their turns ferrying a telephone pole, large rocks, and mannequins on stretchers along the 5K route. Varela was pleased with the enthusiasm and turnout of members and looks forward to more events to bring attention to sexual assault prevention and response.


"It brings light to a serious situation," said A1C Marissa Mugavero, 106th Logistics Readiness Squadron. "Making it fun makes more people want to participate, have an interest in it and be aware of it."


According to the DoD website, everyone has a role in stopping sexual assault. If you are interested in becoming a victim advocate for the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program, please contact Captain Linda Varela at (631) 723-7500.