Family matters: Winning the 'war' within

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Beadles
  • 341st Medical Group superintendent
For months I have been pondering on what topic to write about; a meaningful message for all ranks that they could walk away with. On Dec. 8, I was sitting in the wing conference room with the Malmstrom Air Force Base leadership team and we watched a movie entitled "The Invisible War." As I sat there, disgusted by what I was seeing, I realized what relevant subject matter should be the topic of my article. You would think the movie would have been about the financial cliff, or about our aging missile and plane fleets and how we were going to move forward, but no; it was about sexual assault!

The movie was produced and created by the private industry to illustrate the problem we have with sexual assault in the Department of Defense. It included several sexual assaults owned by the Air Force, and other services, and the tragic events the victims have gone through. The movie was more than two hours long consisting of victims talking about their assaulter, many of whom were their trusted counterparts. Sitting there, I was ashamed and disgusted to think this is what some of our fellow Americans think of their armed forces.

It puzzles me as I have had the privilege to have served both in Iraq and Afghanistan with the best armed forces in the world. I have seen firsthand, military brothers and sisters run shoulder to shoulder through mortar attacks and small arm attacks to defend the integrity of the outer perimeter. I have watched combat medics run through hell fire to get to and treat a downed soldier. I have seen all branches of service come together to mourn the death of fellow service members. Each time I see this, it humbles me and I am honored to stand by them as part of a family. Unfortunately, what I cannot wrap my head around is how in one split second you risk life and limb to save a brother or sister and then in another instant you sexually assault them. Where did we lose the passion to protect one another on and off the battlefield? Where has the Wingman concept gone? Where has the simple, but poignant phrase "treat others how you want to be treated" gone?

I do not have the magical answer, nor do I even know how to fight this battle; but what I do know is that everyone who puts on a uniform is my family. Where I come from, family means everything. We do everything and anything in our power to protect one another, as witnessed in my deployments, as I hope you have seen in yours. I wholeheartedly believe this is the way most of us feel when we are fighting next to one another against terrorism or those who want to oppress us, even in our day-to-day home-station job while fulfilling the mission. So, I guess my message and plea to you is that you take care of our family. Step in and protect your brother and sister at home, in all situations, as you would protect them against an enemy. Let us win this war at home so we can win our wars abroad. It starts with protecting from within first!