Minot AFB initiates new SAPR TEAL program

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Reagan Gagne, 5th Bomb Wing sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), introduces herself to her students at the TEAL training course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, March 26, 2024. SARC serves as the primary point of contact for victim advocacy, reporting, and response. SARC also implements and manages the base Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program. U.S. Air Force Photos I Airman 1st Class Alyssa Bankston

The Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) office initiated the first ever Trained, Educated, Airmen, Liaisons (TEAL) volunteer course on March 26-27, 2024 at Minot Air Force Base.

Senior Airman Jerrold Thomson, 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron knowledge operations management specialist, participates in the TEAL training course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, March 26, 2024. The 5th Bomb Wing Sexual Assault Prevention and Response office trains volunteers to become TEAL representatives as an additional resource embedded within a unit to help provide SAPR related information and resources to any survivors in need.

TEAL is a two-day program and is aimed at educating and empowering a new group of liaisons to assist in bridging the gap between individuals in need and the appropriate channels.

“What I found from being a Sexual Assault Readiness Coordinator (SARC) for as long as I have, is that there’s a missing connectedness with airmen to resources,” said Reagan Gagne, 5th Bomb Wing SARC. “Regardless of how many times we’re present at the First Term Enlisted Course (FTEC) and Airmen Leadership School (ALS) or any of the base newcomer briefs, when it comes to sexual assault, there’s usually that moment of ‘who do I call?’ They might need some guidance and support, that’s where the liaisons come in.”

Gange described the curriculum as comprehensive and encompassing essential skills without expecting the volunteers to be experts. Topics such as victim blaming, trauma response, and effective communication strategies are covered to equip volunteers with meaningful support tools.
The TEAL program welcomes volunteers of all ranks and Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) after going through a thorough interview process.
“We want to make sure we have appropriate people representing the office,” said Gagne. “We want people who are in good standing, who don’t have any Letters of Reprimand (LOR), Letters of Counseling (LOC), Article 15’s or any history of sexual assault or domestic violence. Availability is also important. While this is a volunteer opportunity, it is not going to take away from their normal everyday duties. At minimum, we require a few things once a month, and then every quarter, to hopefully make an impact in that unit.”

One of the volunteers who completed the course spoke about the ways the curriculum prepared them for their role as a liaison.

“If you are in a situation and don’t know where to start, go to the SAPR office.” said Senior Airman Davina Osei Agyemang, 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron customer service journeyman. “They give you the option to make a restricted or unrestricted report. If you want it to stay within their walls, file a restricted report. They are still available to help you with any resource you need. If you want to go unrestricted, that opens an investigation. From there, they’ll direct you to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), and the victim counsel is going to come in.”

Osei Agyemang commended the course’s hands-on approach to learning. She described how the course involved role playing that encompassed real-life scenarios the liaisons might encounter. Osei Agyemang says one of the lessons that really stuck with her was on the dangers of making assumptions.

“If someone says they want to talk to you, it might not always be a sexual assault or harassment case,” said Osei Agyemang. “Because you’re a SAPR TEAL, you might just see yourself as only that resource. But if someone comes along and says ‘hey, I want to talk. Can I talk to you?’ do not assume they have gone through that. During one of the scenarios I thought right off the bat the woman confiding in me had been sexually assaulted. However, that was not the case. So, we are taught to not assume and to get our facts straight before we speak.”

Business cards from the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) office are displayed in the back of the TEAL training course at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, March 26, 2024. The Air Force encourages accountability for those who commit sexual assaults as well as sensitive care and private reporting for victims of these crimes.

During the two-day course, Osei Agyemang said she not only learned about her role as a SAPR TEAL, but also important lessons she could utilize in her daily life.

“At first I was curious why we had two days of training,” said Osei Agyemang. “But then I learned this wasn’t just about SAPR, but also helping us to become more sensitive to the people we are going to work with. I think it has not just helped me be a successful TEAL representative, but also as a person, because I’m looking at things differently now.”

Looking towards the future, Gagne expressed optimism about the program’s impact and expansion. Her current plan is to conduct the course twice a year and integrate feedback from participants for continuous improvement.

The launch of the TEAL volunteer course at Minot AFB marks a step towards fostering a supportive and empowered military community. By equipping volunteers with essential skills as liaisons, this initiative sets a standard for proactive support and effective communication for Airmen during challenging times.

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