Airmen gain voice through violence intervention training

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — A new Air Force training program prepares Airmen to recognize barriers and find ways to comfortably address them in an effort to reduce power-based personal violence within the communities they belong to.

The training program, Green Dot, involves sexual assault awareness, ways to reduce dating and domestic violence, and stalking.

Tech. Sgt. Jaime Corneau, the Green Dot coordinator at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, said he is encouraged by the format and curriculum Green Dot has established. 

“The training is more interactive, engaging and certainly not death by PowerPoint,” Corneau said. “With a set of standards for the curriculum, we don’t train by the masses and I find that helpful in being able to connect more with the audience.”

The training familiarizes participants with the problems of interpersonal violence within a community. After acknowledging that barriers exist for everyone, the training then moves on to ways to overcome those barriers and how to help community members against different forms of violence.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Hite, a Green Dot coordinator from Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, recently witnessed the benefits of Green Dot training during a TDY assignment.

“A group of us were by the hotel lounge and an Airman came up to me saying, ‘Hey, there’s a girl over there … and it looks like she is becoming more uncomfortable by this guy who won’t leave her alone. Should we do something about it?’” Hite explained.

The Airman recognized a potentially harmful situation and asked for help, a concept taught within the Green Dot training. 

“The guy at the bar was a big guy, and I definitely was not comfortable going with a direct approach, but we knew we could try a few different things to mitigate the situation,” Hite said. 

The Airmen decided to talk to a group of men who looked like they were acquainted with the intoxicated man. Once the Airmen talked to the group about how much their friend had to drink, the friends removed him from the situation, and the young woman was no longer being bothered.

Green Dot training encourages the concept of the “unexpected messenger.” This person could be a neighbor, colleague or member of the community who wants to see the number of interpersonal violence incidents reduced. Master Sgt. Michael Henderson, the Air Mobility Command airfieldsystems and resources branch superintendent, shared a recent example of how he intervened as an “unexpected messenger.”

“My family and I were enjoying a quick bite to eat at a food court in St. Louis when this family sat near us. At first, things seemed normal, but then the wife started to get loud toward her husband. It escalated to her slapping and punching him in the face. In the past, I would have packed up my family and just left the situation — not get involved. However, this time — I still packed up my family — but as quickly as I could, I found a cop and filled them in on what I just witnessed.”

This example of the “unexpected messenger” concept highlights how a person can take notice and then take action in situations they may have previously ignored or felt too uncomfortable to do anything about. 

Another unique concept of the training is how it fosters interaction between the audience and instructors, also known as implementers. Implementers are encouraged to openly talk about their own barriers and often share personal stories as to why this training matters to them. Additionally, the four-hour bystander training uses remote-controlled clickers to answer questions anonymously. It gives the participants a visual and shows them that these statistics are not simply numbers but are symbolic of the very people and experiences within that room.

One person was so moved by the message and interactions of others within the course that she decided to share her story anonymously.

“For someone with my life experiences, I was dreading the training and it was extremely difficult for me. One of the trainers shared her story of interpersonal violence. Her ability to be that open, especially in a military environment, made me feel like I could share mine. It helped me get my voice back.”

The Green Dot program is more than training. It is an attempt to change a culture where people are unsure how to intervene in violent situations. This training gives Airmen both the knowledge and skills to intervene when they witness a power-based personal violence situation.