GREAT FALLS, Mont. --
Five Airmen from the Montana Air National Guard and one attending from the 173rd Fighter Wing Oregon Air National Guard, Klamath Falls, Ore., graduated March 3 from the first MTANG hosted sexual assault response victim advocate initial course here.
“The recruits went through an interview process, background screening and this is the big step,” said Debra Glenn, MTANG sexual assault response coordinator. “They are considered victim advocate recruits because we have to see through their certification process.”
The graduates will double the victim advocates available to the state of Montana after completion of the certification process, Glenn said.
The Air Force is committed to ensuring sexual assault victims are protected, treated with dignity and respect, and provided support, advocacy, and care, according to Air Force Instruction 90-6001, Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program .
“(Victim advocates) are there to empower and support the victim, not make their decisions,” said Army Capt. Marieke Baughman, Joint Force Headquarters, Fort Harrison, Helena, victim advocate coordinator and one of the two instructors for the initial course.
The 40-hour week long training consisted of classroom lecture along with tours of the Cascade County victim/witness office and Benefis Health System's safe room and included a briefing with the local law enforcement sexual assault detectives, Glenn said.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary describes an advocate as a person who argues for the cause of another person in court, but the MTANG victim advocate position goes further.
“We had a lot of open discussions about why and how important our job is to be there for the victim and how it really supports them in going through a very hard time,” said Staff Sgt. Luis M. Marrero, air transportation journeyman.
“I care about people and want to be there to help,” Marrero said.
Marrero, not local to Great Falls, will be able to help victims from his hometown.
“Victim advocates that aren’t local will be very helpful because, if we have a victim that lives in those areas, they can have immediate access to that victim advocate,” Glenn said.
The MTANG sexual assault response program has been growing.
“Before, the victim advocates did training at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Great Falls. We’re planning to have another initial course in the summer,” Glenn said.
“(The graduates) came in with an interest and are leaving with a passion,” Glenn said.