The Enemy Within

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Navy photo / MC 3rd Class Scott Pittman

Sailors aboard the now-retired USS Enterprise, Sept. 11, 2012.

It’s a drag that the U.S. military has to dedicate so much time and effort to teaching young people skills they should have been taught at home.

Now, apparently, it’s getting even worse: we have to teach everyone else not to ignore their vileness.

Take the brutal reality of sexual harassment. It’s too common, and too-commonly tolerated, within the ranks.

It’s the second part of that equation — the too-commonly tolerated piece — that really stings.

It’s an insidious problem, beyond the sexual harassers: those silent accomplices who instead of standing up for their fellow troops, simply turn away and allow it to fester.

Last week, the Navy announced it is hiring a contractor “to provide training and discussions focused on bystander mentality related to sexual violence and prevention for junior Sailors and Marines around the globe.”

The Navy’s Sexual Assault and Prevention Office plans to hire No Zebras and More under a $355,000 contract to produce “an estimated ninety working days of the bystander mentality sexual assault training shows to Sailors and Marines located at CONUS and OCONUS military installations” – all around the world, in other words:

The contract shall provide training shows, approximately one hour in length, consisting of vignettes which depict actual instances of sexual aggression seen in Navy and Marine Corps settings. The language and actions are to be realistic. Facilitators shall also address issues relating to laws, behaviors, and specifically the inactive bystander mentality and how it affects Sailors and Marines personally, and the Navy and Marine Corps in general.

The goal:

…if subsequently faced with similar situations in real-life, junior Sailors and Marines will notice behaviors that lead to sexual violence, interpret them as inappropriate, and take purposeful action to prevent sexual violence.

Fingers crossed on that. This is how No Zebras and More describes its work:

It all starts with a lion, stalking a herd of zebras.

The Zebras notice and start to run away. The lion isolates one and brings her down. Seeing the lion is now occupied, the zebras stop running and continue munching on grass. They glance at their friend and think,

“That will never be me.”

But who will be next?

The Zebras outnumber the lion, standing together they are more powerful, and could eliminate the threat.

The Bystander mentality is the focus of this powerful program. Through a series of vignettes  it teaches that the issue of sexual aggression can no longer be ignored.  People must stand up, quit being bystanders, and help keep others around them safe!

The training is slated to begin Feb. 8 in Albany, Ga., and wrap up in September at Naval Weapons Station Earle in New Jersey. In between, training will be done everywhere from Bahrain to Djibouti, to Guam, to Naples, Italy, to Okinawa, to Rota, Spain, to Singapore and on to Diego Garcia, a flyspeck of an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Intriguing, sure. Depressing, even more so.