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The 107th Airlift Wing held a sexual assault prevention and response stand-down day

Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, addressed the men and women of the 107th.  The stand-down was a temporary stoppage of operations to focus on eliminating sexual assault in the Armed Forces, an initiative directed by the Secretary of Defense. July 21, 2013 (Air National Guard Photo/ Senior Airmen Daniel Fravel)

Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, addressed the men and women of the 107th. The stand-down was a temporary stoppage of operations to focus on eliminating sexual assault in the Armed Forces, an initiative directed by the Secretary of Defense. July 21, 2013 (Air National Guard Photo/ Senior Airmen Daniel Fravel)

Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, addressed the men and women of the 107th.  The stand-down was a temporary stoppage of operations to focus on eliminating sexual assault in the Armed Forces, an initiative directed by the Secretary of Defense. July 21, 2013 (Air National Guard Photo/ Senior Airmen Daniel Fravel)

Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, addressed the men and women of the 107th. The stand-down was a temporary stoppage of operations to focus on eliminating sexual assault in the Armed Forces, an initiative directed by the Secretary of Defense. July 21, 2013 (Air National Guard Photo/ Senior Airmen Daniel Fravel)

NIAGARA FALLS AIR RESERVE STATION -- The 107th Airlift Wing held a sexual assault prevention and response stand-down day on July 21, 2013 during the unit's training assembly weekend here.

The stand-down was a temporary stoppage of operations to focus on eliminating sexual assault in the Armed Forces, an initiative directed by the Secretary of Defense.

The day began with a commander's call where Col. John Higgins, 107th Airlift Wing Commander, addressed the men and women of the 107th. Col. Higgins spoke frankly about the problem of sexual assault in the Air Force and Air National Guard. He cited facts, dispelled myths, and reiterated the no tolerance policy of the Department of Defense.

"This is an extremely important issue to all of us here at the 107th, the Air National Guard and the military as a whole. We will foster an environment of dignity and respect," said Col. Higgins. "There is no tolerance for sexual assault. We will fully investigate any wrongdoing," he said.

Following the commander's call, the unit broke into smaller groups for four interactive briefings. These sessions included the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Coordinator, the Judge Advocate General, a sexual assault nurse from the local community, chaplain assistants, a military equal opportunity representative and victim advocates from the unit's SAPR program. The discussions included professional ethics, victim care and rights, legal implications for perpetrators, the reporting and investigation process, as well as interactions with unit leadership. An ongoing theme was that all Airmen are responsible for creating a climate that does not tolerate, condone or ignore sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Airman First Class Michael Giordano, a new unit member assigned to the 107th Student Flight, felt the down-day was an important reminder. "You have to remember you are in uniform and that you have to hold yourself to a higher standard," he said.

Information on the SAPR program can be found on the 107th's webpage at http://newpreview.afnews.af.mil/107aw/sapr.asp and at http://www.afpc.af.mil/library/sapr/index.asp