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It's time for action to protect our Alaska National Guard

  • Author: Chris Tuck
  • Updated: June 29, 2016
  • Published March 16, 2015

It's been six months since reports of sexual assault, rape, fraud and hostile work environments were brought to light by the National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations (OCI) report of the Alaska National Guard. Reports and ethics complaints were filed with the governor's office in 2010, without any actions taken. Instead, for another four years, sexual assault victims were ignored, and their perpetrators were allowed to continue shameful behavior.

According to the 2014 Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Report released by the Department of Defense, there has been an 8 percent increase in overall reports of sexual assault nationwide. A 13 percent increase in the number of restricted reports -- those where the survivor does not pursue justice -- demonstrate an increasing lack of confidence in the military justice system. Alaska has the highest rate of rape in the country at three times the national average. In Alaska, 59 percent of women will be raped, assaulted, beaten, or threatened with violence in their lifetime.

It is time for us to take our head out of the sand, stand up for Alaskans, and make some real reforms. It is time to protect our guard members who so bravely fight for us at home and abroad.

I have reached out to the community and received numerous calls from past and current guard members who confirmed allegations contained in the report. I immediately began researching actions to improve safety measures not just for our guard, but for all Alaskans.

This session, I introduced legislation to:

• Strengthen employment protections and privacy rights for sexual assault victims;
• Clarify the protocol for reporting sexual assaults in the guard; and
• Overhaul the Alaska Code of Military Justice to strengthen military order and discipline.

Despite repeated requests, there still hasn't been a single hearing on any piece of legislation aimed at the root of the problem within the guard. The Republican-led majority is once again pushing this issue to the side. We are now halfway through session, and action needs to be taken now.

I applaud the governor for his action in hiring a special investigator. Unfortunately, some legislators are using this as an excuse to not take action. We need to move forward with much-needed reform. The OCI report has already provided suggestions, and legislation has been introduced to help solve problems. Guard members are ready for action now.

The guard is about honesty, integrity, serving our community, state, and country. It is time we remove the cloud over the guard which was created by the actions of a few individuals and allowed to continue by many others. I appreciate the service of each member and look forward to working together on a solution.

Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, is serving his fourth term in the Alaska State Legislature and is the leader of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

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