You just never know what life is going to throw at you

EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Life is like the weather, if you don't like it, just wait ...

Two years ago I received orders to Eielson to be a squadron section commander for the 354th Maintenance Squadron. I was ecstatic; that was exactly what I'd hoped for--well, at least the Alaska part. I had just re-cored out of financial management and was looking to dig my heels into my very first job as a personnelist.

Best of all, I was returning back to this great land that I came to love for its rugged beauty during my first Air Force assignment to Elmendorf as an airman basic back in 1990. After eight glorious years I was finally told to move on and give someone else a chance.

A lot of things have changed over the past 17 years. One being that I received my commission; however, that was not the biggest challenge of my career by any means. The biggest challenge was arriving at Eielson, not as squadron section commander, but instead as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for Eielson.

Yes, the Air Force saw fit to make me Eielson's first SARC. Well, I don't know about you, but I wasn't even sure what that was at the time. In fact, I'm not sure what intimidated me more, the fact the words "sexual assault" would be in my title, or the fact the Air Force was relying on me to build a non-existent program with little to no guidance and training. Now that's a challenge!

A year and a half has already come and gone, and with tremendous support from my wonderful assistant Mr. Denis Du Vall, I am proud to say that Eielson has an excellent Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program established.

Although I can say that now with a sigh of relief, it was a gut-wrenching first year. Building the program was the easy part. The hard part came when my first sexual assault victim walked through my door.

The SAPR Program is an excellent program and one that is needed. There are so many victims who are suffering in silence because the words 'sexual assault' and 'rape' have been taboo for so long. Furthermore, our culture is one that has often put blame on the victim(s) and for this reason, most don't come forward; I understand this now. As a sexual assault coordinator, I've dealt with victims one-on-one and have been pulled into their world of pain; something very difficult to go through, both for the victim and myself.

As prior enlisted for 11 years, I was an information manager, otherwise fondly referred to as an admin troop. Throw a pile of papers on my desk and I'd have them cleared by the end of the day. As a budget officer, I oversaw approximately $2 million a year.

Most would expect me to be managing people, but where do the words 'sexual assault' fit into the personnel world?

Believe it or not, the SARC position is held by a personnelist. Just one of the many jobs a personnelist may hold. Yes folks, the Air Force is changing, which brings to mind a phrase a friend of mine uses: "I don't mind change; I just don't want to be there when it happens."

Most know that the one thing you can count on in life is change. The Air Force has provided me with hundreds of hours of training to prepare me for my role as SARC. I truly believe I will look back on this opportunity as one of the most rewarding positions I have held during my career. I say that because of the opportunities I have been given to make such impacts on people's lives while in crisis. It takes special people to work with those in crisis, which is why I network with agencies such as the Chaplain's Office and Life Skills, as well as off-base agencies.

In ending, I'd like to let everyone know I am here to provide whatever service I can to those who have been or may become a victim of sexual violence. Eielson currently has 14 Volunteer Victim Advocates who are on-call 24/7 to provide sensitive victim support. Furthermore, we are fortunate to have Chap. (Capt.) Patrick Genseal, 354th Fighter Wing chaplain, who is a subject-matter expert in the area of sexual trauma having recently completed AFIT and received his Master's Degree in working with victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

My hope is that should you be victimized by this crime, I will be the first you call you make. The call can be anonymous and you will have lost nothing, but you will have opened the door to received care, information and available reporting options. The 24/7 SARC hotline number is: 377-SARC.

If you are not comfortable with contacting me, please consider contacting Chaplain Genseal at 377-2130 during duty hours, or 24/7 through the Command Post at 377-1500.