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Sexual assault is a 'cancer,' Welsh says

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- The Air Force chief of staff testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and service chiefs from the Army, Navy Marine Corps and Coast Guard on pending legislation regarding sexual assaults in the military June 4.

Gen. Mark A. Welsh III re-emphasized to the committee the Air Force's commitment to combating sexual assault within its ranks and improving care for victims when it does occur.

Sexual assault "undermines the mission effectiveness of our great force," he said. "Nothing saddens me more than to know this cancer exists in our ranks."

According to Welsh, preventing sexual assault is every Airman's responsibility.

"Every Airman is either part of the solution or part of the problem," he said. "There is no middle ground."

In January, the Air Force spearheaded a pilot program for the Department of Defense which provides special counsel to survivors of sexual assault.

The Special Victims Counsel is currently composed of 60 specially-trained military lawyers and is currently serving 282 victims.

"Feedback from the victims has been very, very positive," Welsh said. "We're excited about where it's going. It's been a very, very good program ... In my mind, it's game-changing."

Welsh personalized the issue by discussing, as a family man, how sexual assault weighs on him.

"All of us have families and we immediately relate to them when we see a report of this crime," he said. "I have five sisters. I have a mother. They set my moral compass on this issue. I have a daughter who's looking into the United States Air Force. I will not be tolerant of this crime."
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