By Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel
19th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
As of Nov. 3, Little Rock Air Force Base has a new sexual assault and response coordinator. Roland DeLeon, the 19th Airlift Wing SARC, sat down with Little Rock AFB Public Affairs for an interview.
Q: Where is home for you?
A: It is in the military, I don’t really have a traditional home. I have been moving with my family to different military installations since I was a little kid. Now, home is where Jodie is, and Jodie is my wife. She is in Virginia now, but I’ve never lived there.
Q: How do you like Little Rock so far?
A: I really enjoy it; it’s a nice place to live. I like living on base. It is quiet, and everything I need is close by. I spend most of my time on base, hanging out with my dog and playing Call of Duty. It’s easy to reach out into the community and find different things here too.
Q: What is your past military experience?
A: I was born in Texas, and my father was an Army aviator. We lived in Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Hawaii, and traveled often. I went to college but soon after joined the Marine Corps. While a Marine, I went to South Carolina, California and Japan. I separated in the early ‘90s and ended up joining the Army. Once again, I went everywhere. I mostly stayed in southern states while in the U.S. and traveled abroad to Korea, Germany, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Q: What took you so long to come to the Air Force?
A: Well, when I joined the service for the first time, the Army, Navy and Air Force recruiters were out to lunch. The Marine Corps recruiter was the only guy working, and I intended to join anyway. When I was in the Army, I knew I wasn’t getting out; I was going to do my 20 years. It is difficult to get hired as a civilian in Air Force services, so I consider myself very lucky to finally be here in the Air Force.
Q: What led you to get involved with sexual assault prevention?
A: I like helping people. While working in the Marine Corps, I gravitated toward the Navy medic and helped him out and learned a lot of things there. When I got out of the Corps, I wanted to work law enforcement and help others. In the civilian world, the jobs weren’t available, so I joined the Army almost immediately and became a military police officer. As I progressed from a young soldier to a senior soldier and got my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree, I started learning that it’s more than just being out in the streets. I learned about police theory and how we can change cultures, which make our community a safer place. I started slowly gravitating toward this field. As a whole, I like to look at this field from a prevention aspect. I want to see how we can prevent sexual assaults in our community versus being victim-focused on the response side.
Q: You have only been in the Air Force for about a month, but how long have you been involved in sexual assault prevention?
A: I did this for a while as a service member in the Army before separating. I was the SARC for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany, and I was then hired there as a civilian. I did that for about 15 to 18 months before being hired to do the position here.
Q: What are your impressions of Little Rock AFB’s SARC program?
A: The program is pretty strong here. We’ve seen 32 reports of sexual assault the last fiscal year, but only a handful occurred on the installation. The problem is not necessarily on base. Our program is great at providing rapid response and support to the survivors of sexual assault. Mrs. Linda Benjamin is excellent at what she does and victim response. We have 15 victim advocates, and about 20 more that are in training. We can get better with prevention. We will work on messaging and figure out how to address prevention.
Q: What are some steps we can take to help with sexual assault prevention?
A: The biggest influencer in anybody’s life is his or her peer group. Peers are the ones who are going to make things happen. The best thing we can do is to identify our peer leaders, and have them be strong and speak out. Our community needs to be able to step up and step in. If everyone focuses on a little thing that they can do, it will make a huge impact.
Sometimes sexual jokes and innuendo happen. It just takes a friend talking to another friend to make a difference. It is important that individuals don’t go out and take an aggressive standpoint. When communicating, we tend to mirror what comes at us. By approaching a situation and trying to get a person on your team, you can create a healthy, safe environment.
Q: What is your plan to help reduce sexual assault?
A. My number one priority is prevention.
As a military, we have the tendency to say “don’t do this” or “don’t do that.” I believe in teaching risk awareness over risk aversion.
For example, sending clear messages is good in helping to prevent sexual assault, but it is often socially difficult. However, asking for help could be pretty easy. Turning to the person next to you and asking to talk because you feel uncomfortable around someone else, gives that person a moral obligation to help you out of situations like that. With a bit of pressure, people have an inclination to help and do what is right.
I also know that peers have greater influence than a command does. We can direct change all day long, but it doesn’t happen until there is peer group trend. The real impact is qualitative, not quantitative.
We can’t just focus on the “you must” or “you have to do,” it is about personal leadership and ownership. It is important to understand yourself and why you do what you do. It’s impossible for this office to create change by itself; I need Airmen who are willing to go out there and run with it.
In terms of awareness, resilience training and Leadership Pathway classes are great. I believe in educating people so they can critically analyze what they think they know versus what they know.
I plan to add a class to Leadership Pathways called Bystander Intervention. It will critically analyze why we don’t act, reasons we should act and how you can do something. The class also looks at how intervention makes someone feel, and the perceived versus actual costs.
Ignoring a problem makes it worse. I plan to educate and encourage people to act. We don’t have to do everything, but need to do something.
Q: Where can people go if they would like to find out more information about sexual assault prevention at Little Rock AFB?
A: If people have any questions or need support, they can contact the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office at (501) 987-2697, or speak with a victim advocate at (501) 987-2685.