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NCO completes in-theater advocate training

Staff Sgt. Kino Simmons listens to a paralegal talk about the legal issues involved with being a victim advocate Nov. 29 at a Southwest Asia base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

Staff Sgt. Kino Simmons listens to a paralegal talk about the legal issues involved with being a victim advocate Nov. 29 at a Southwest Asia base. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Jason Tudor)

SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- An NCO here completed 40 hours of training to become the first victim advocate trained in Southwest Asia, according to the local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator.

Dr. Mario Mercado said Staff Sgt. Kino Simmons of the 380th Expeditionary Communications Squadron completed the training before any other to earn the "first trained" moniker.

The training includes medical, legal and counseling classes, although advocates are not counselors.

The job of a victim advocate is not to ask questions or doubt the victim; their job is to help the individual through the process following a sexual assault or other incident.

Responsibilities of a victim advocate include:

-- Providing crisis intervention, referral and ongoing non-clinical support.

-- Providing information on available options and resources to assist the victim in making informed decisions.

-- Continuing services until the victim states support is no longer needed.

-- Accompanying the victim, at their request, during investigative interviews and medical examinations.

"They are choreographers," Dr. Mercado said. "They ensure the victim has every possible opportunity to get the medical and mental health assistance required to once again make them 'whole' regardless of how long it takes to overcome the adversity."

Sergeant Simmons, a native of Savannah, Ga., said the training will be helpful here and at Yokota Air Base, Japan, his home station.

"There are a lot of people who have been through life-changing experiences and I just want to help out as much as I can," Sergeant Simmons said.

He said having a younger sister provided some of the motivation for completing the training.

"If something ever happened to her, I want to be sympathetic and help her get to a better place," he said.

His training took place for three hours each night Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the start of his AEF rotation. With his supervisors approval, he was able to "knock out as much of the training as" he could.

Admittedly, it wasn't easy. "Doc Mercado was pretty patient. Overall, it was very in-depth and informational," he said.

With his training under his belt, Sergeant Simmons said he's now standing watch.

"My biggest thing is this: I don't want somebody to get hurt on my watch," he said.
Meanwhile, Dr. Mercado is proud of the young NCO's effort. He said he's sure he'll uphold what being a victim advocate is all about.

"The goal of the victim advocate is to be there; someone who is willing to go the distance to make our Air Force strong," Dr. Mercado said.

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