WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today sent a letter to Brigadier General Heather L. Pringle, Commander of the U.S. Air Force 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio, requesting she consider a mandatory buddy pair system as a means to reduce sexual assaults at the facilities under her command for servicemembers in a training status. Her letter follows her visit to the base, which included discussions with servicemembers to identify a number of ways to better address these heinous crimes, such as a mandatory buddy pair system.

In her letter, Senator Ernst writes that she was “surprised to hear that the Air Force was the only service that did not require such a system for all of its students in training status.” And added “this is disappointing, as the buddy pair system not only can reduce vulnerabilities for sexual assault, but also helps young servicemembers make better decisions.”

The Iowa Senator asked that the Air Force consider implementing the buddy pair system, emphasizing that, “as we continue to see sexual assault plague institutions around the country, it is my hope that the military will continue to take concrete steps to improve and become a leading example for how to effectively curb this problem. Therefore, I request that you consider making a buddy pair system mandatory for all Air Force personnel in a training status on Joint Base San Antonio.”

Senator Ernst’s letter comes as part of her ongoing efforts to combat military sexual assault, including work with Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill on the Military Retaliation Prevention Act which was signed into law as part of the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. This also follows her column earlier this year in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, urging the military to do more to prevent sexual assault.

To read the full letter, click here or see below.

January 25, 2017

Heather L. Pringle
Brigadier General, USAF
Commander, 502nd Air Base Wing and Joint Base San Antonio
San Antonio, TX  78234

Brigadier General Pringle:

I write to you today as a follow-up to my November 18, 2016, visit to Fort Sam Houston, which was focused on investigating military sexual assault. My discussions with servicemembers were both informative and productive, and I believe we identified a number of ways to better address these heinous crimes.

One of those ways involves instituting a mandatory buddy pair system. I was surprised to hear that the Air Force was the only service that did not require such a system for all of its students in training status. Specifically, the Air Force does not require students in training status on JBSA-Ft. Sam Houston or JBSA-Randolph to travel in a buddy pair. This is disappointing, as the buddy pair system not only can reduce vulnerabilities for sexual assault, but also helps young servicemembers make better decisions. When I deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as a captain, all servicemembers on our base were required to travel in pairs, including myself.

As we continue to see sexual assault plague institutions around the country, it is my hope that the military will continue to take concrete steps to improve and become a leading example for how to effectively curb this problem. Therefore, I request that you consider making a buddy pair system mandatory for all Air Force personnel in a training status on Joint Base Sam Antonio. I appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to hearing your thoughts on your decision.

Sincerely,

Joni K. Ernst

 

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