A Cancer within the Ranks

Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on Tuesday re-emphasized the Air Force’s commitment to combating sexual assault within its ranks and improving care for victims when it does occur. Sexual assault “undermines the mission effectiveness” of the service, Welsh told the Senate Armed Services Committee in testimony. “Nothing saddens me more than to know this cancer exists in our ranks,” he told the lawmakers. Welsh appeared before the committee along with Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, the other service Chiefs, and Coast Guard commandant. Preventing sexual assault is every airman’s responsibility, said Welsh. “Every airman is either part of the solution or part of the problem,” he said. “I have a daughter who’s looking into the United States Air Force. I will not be tolerant of this crime.” During the June 4 hearing, Dempsey urged the lawmakers to regard commanders as a part of the solution to preventing sexual assaults and not strip their responsibility as some legislative proposals would do. “As we consider further reforms, the role of the commander should remain central,” he said. “Our goal should be to hold commanders more accountable, not render them less able to help us correct the crisis.” (Welsh’s prepared remarks) (Washington, D.C., report by SSgt. David Salanitri and AFPS report by Jim Garamone)