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A simple request

Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Craver, 31st Fighter Wing command chief, jokes around with his daughter on the porch of his house. For 18 years, his daughter has associated the military uniform with that of safety, security, dignity, trust and respect. However, with more than 700 sexual assaults reported across the Air Force in 2012, the uniform can be a fearful reminder that their brothers or sisters in arms assaulted them. (Courtesy Photo)

Chief Master Sgt. Jeffrey Craver, 31st Fighter Wing command chief, jokes around with his daughter on the porch of his house. For 18 years, his daughter has associated the military uniform with that of safety, security, dignity, trust and respect. However, with more than 700 sexual assaults reported across the Air Force in 2012, the uniform can be a fearful reminder for some that their brothers or sisters in arms assaulted them. (Courtesy Photo)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- I read the email with disbelief that there would be 700 sexual assaults across the Air Force in 2012. Some would read that number and claim while not one is acceptable it is still a small percentage given the size of our force. But then I thought what if all 700 were on your base? How is combat capability affected when it would take down an entire squadron of defenders, engineers, maintainers, or logisticians (some of our larger squadrons typically)? How do you think mission accomplishment would be affected? What was even more disturbing as we read the accounts is that a large majority of these assaults are blue-on-blue.

As I put on my uniform this morning and looked in the mirror I thought about those 700 victims. What do they view when they see this uniform approaching? I can only imagine that for many of them, they see this uniform (the uniform that you and I wear in SERVICE to our Nation) as a fearful reminder that their brothers or sisters in arms assaulted them. The uniform coming towards them in the hallways, hangars, dorms, work centers or across the parking lot is associated with distrust and fear. This uniform I so proudly wear is tarnished for these victims and we have to win them back. We have to continue to create an environment of trust and respect to all who serve.

A couple of years ago, I was at a conference in the States and was planning to take a few days leave on the backside of that conference. You see, one of my daughters was a freshman at a University nearby and her mother and I had not seen her in a few months. We had kept up with her through social media and a few phone calls but nothing replaces seeing your kids face-to-face to ensure they are adapting and are safe. When I called her to tell her I would have a few days to swing by and see her, she was excited. I then asked her if she needed anything and then braced myself for the typical response one might get from an 18-year-old college freshman; MONEY right? But what I heard on the other end of that line I will never forget.

She said, "Dad I don't really need anything, but I have one simple request; can you wear your uniform?" I paused a bit and then asked, "You want me to wear my uniform?" She said, "Yeah dad. You see the college campus is a lot like Aviano Air Base, minus the barbed wire, but I miss seeing the uniform."

You see, she grew up in the military and for 18 years she has associated it with safety, security, dignity, trust and respect. When she sees the uniform approaching, she longs for its embrace and she runs to greet it. She does so because she understands the sacrifice, service and dedication it represents.

I offer this as an opportunity to reflect on why you walked into that recruiter's office and sat down across the table from them. I will argue for a large majority of us we can still remember the feeling when we first put on the uniform and the pride that overwhelmed us.

Take a few moments and close your eyes to remember that feeling. It is that feeling I am asking you to remember and the next time someone asks who is going to turn this around; stand tall and say I will. We have the power and the responsibility to ensure a safe environment for our Airman and we can do so one Airman at a time.