New York ANG leadership committed to fixing sexual harassment, assault

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By Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez, National Guard Bureau / Published April 23, 2014

Brig. Gen. Dawne Deskins spearheads the Air Force National Guard's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program for the 100,000 Air National Guard members. As the lead role in the program, Deskins will be able to influence the program at a higher level at a time when sexual assault in the military has garnered national attention. (U.S. Army National Guard photo/Staff Sgt. Michelle Gonzalez)


- Bare walls dominate the office décor, evidence that the newest tenant has recently moved in.

“I’m still getting used to it,” says Air Force Brig. Gen. Dawne Deskins who was recently promoted to brigadier general.

For Deskins, the sixth woman promoted to general in the New York Air National Guard, spearheading the Guard’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program for the 100,000 guardsmen is the latest opportunity in her 30-year career.

“It’s an exciting time to be in this program," Deskins said. "It’s a terrible thing that’s happening within our ranks and we’ve got to get our arms around it, because if we don’t, someone else will. I know our leadership all the way up is committed to fixing this.”

With her experience as a commander, Deskins was attracted to the opportunity to work as the special assistant to Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley Clarke, the director of the Air National Guard, and influence the program at a higher level.

“As a commander, there was nothing more important to me than taking care of the people under my command," Deskins said. "I held that responsibility very closely and very dear to my heart. I was supposed to create an environment where people could come safely to work ... that they would not be in any kind of hostile work environment.”

Deskins’ military experience has been extremely positive and she says she wants every Airman to have that experience.

Her goals are to improve training for commanders at all levels, improve the process of reporting across the Guard and improve success with local law enforcement.

“Our availability to train people is a little bit different,” Deskins says referring to the drill status of Guard members. “Ultimately we need to educate all of our Air National Guard leaders so that they can better implement these programs by understanding the nature of this crime, the people who commit it and the impact on the survivors so that we can support them.

Deskins plans to look at the similarities of reporting across the Army, Air Force and the Guard to integrate reporting and improve the process.

“Ultimately, I would hope that as we go through our climate assessments ... we’ll see trust in the system,” Deskins said. “That we will find that eventually reports will go down because we’ve had an effect at the culture level.”

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