South Dakota, Wyoming National Guard partner in pilot training program for sexual assault response
For the past two years, South Dakota and Wyoming's National Guards have piloted a new sexual assault response training program.
The Buddy Aid training program was developed by a Maj. Bridget Flannery of the South Dakota Army National Guard after her experience witnessing sexual violence in Afghanistan in 2013.
The program was submitted to the Warrior Resilience and Fitness Innovation Incubator (WRFII), which identifies and selects programs to be available to all states.
Wyoming National Guard Master Sgt. Rebecca Motley brought the pilot program to the Army Guard in 2019. She said she was very impressed by the training and felt that the Wyoming National Guard needed it.
"Because we do a really good job in the SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevent) program and SAPR (Sexual Assault Prevention and Response) the separate programs of teaching the consequences of your actions, what actions could be a problem, how to report sexual harassment and sexual assault," she said. "But we don't really or didn't, at the time, cover much about response."
The goal is for soldiers to be able to respond and get help when someone discloses an assault. The training takes place in small groups, which Motley said allows for conversation.
"We're shifting the culture, building relationships and building trust," said Motley. "And so we are seeing disclosures of trauma, not necessarily the sexual trauma of it, but we're seeing a lot of activity coming out of these trainings."
So far, she said they have trained over 800 soldiers. The data from the past two years shows a 99 percent confidence level on soldiers' perception that sexual assault is the biggest threat.
The training hasn't been done in the Air National Guard. Motley said that's because it wasn't approved for the Air Force in 2019 but they are in the process of trying to get training. The Air National Guard is where whistleblowers have complained about the mishandling of sexual assault reports and reporting.
Marilyn Burden who served in the Wyoming Air National Guard for 17 years and has been vocal about the toxic culture and lack of appropriate response from the guard regarding sexual assault reports.
"I appreciate new ideas and techniques to address and reduce the sexual harassment and sexual assault. If this program is effective it will have a positive impact in the Guard and the communities," Burden said in response to the announcement of the Buddy Aid training program.
The program will continue to expand and standardize training nationally.