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Airman puts SAPR training to test in real-world situation

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Robert Barnett
  • Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Public Affairs
For Brian Neild, it was a nice sunny August day in Alaska and the weekend was here. Even though the temperature was brisk, he and some friends wandered around a market in downtown Anchorage, and they settled at a café, a place with a view of the main Anchorage bus station.

It was then the Alaska Air National Guard master sergeant found himself in a situation that would put his recent Air Force training to the test.

It started when Neild and his friends watched a woman start arguing with a middle-aged man. The argument escalated and the man, who was roughly six-foot-two and whose dress and thin appearance implied he might be homeless, grabbed the woman by the neck and pinned her against the wall.

If those walking past noticed, they ignored it and kept walking, or they watched, but did nothing.

No one in the surrounding buildings chose to intervene.

For Neild, the choice had already been made.

"'If not me, then whom?' was the question ringing in my brain," the 176th Force Support Flight member said. "It is not my instinct to involve myself in someone else's dispute, but after the wing briefing, I had made a choice to do so. Now, that choice was coming back to me.

"I jumped out of my chair, puffed myself up as big as I could [five foot nine], and ran outside and began yelling at the man - 'hands off', 'get away from her', 'I'm about to call the cops' - I'm not sure what else I had yelled. I was scared."

Neild didn't know if the man had any weapons like a gun or a knife.

He did know, though, it was possible that's what he was stepping into.

The man told Neild the situation was none of his business, that the girl was his daughter.

The girl asked Neild to call the police. He did so as other bystanders began to gather around them. The man seemed to get the message and left.

People made sure the woman was safe. Neild's adrenaline was pumping; he was shaking as he thought about what had just happened.

"After the excitement was over, we went back inside the café," he said. "I was asked to stick around in case the police needed a statement. I needed to let the adrenaline dissipate as well. I was a little shaky."

The police never showed up, so if someone thinks that making a call is all they need to do, they're probably wrong, he said.

"The manager gave me a bunch of free drink coupons and thanked me for helping the girl," the master sergeant explained.

"My friend was impressed with the whole thing. She exclaimed, 'That was pretty brave, I couldn't do something like that! Why did you do it?'

"I shrugged and said, 'I thought there might be a camera.'"

His friend didn't get the joke, so he explained bystander intervention training.

"When I heard that the entire wing had to go through another sexual assault briefing, I probably rolled my eyes," he said.

"After all, I knew I wouldn't sexually assault anyone. The odds are I'll never even witness something so violent.

"Why should I waste valuable work and training time hearing about someone else's mistakes?

"As the man grabbed the woman ... my mind flashed with memories of the video we watched in that training. They had a presenter who was pretty effective, and entertaining, too. There's a video of a guy getting physical with a woman - people are just walking by, not helping. I had felt embarrassed for my gender."

Neild said he may have not acted if he hadn't been through the training.

"I will remember that when we have our next mass briefing, whether it is suicide prevention or sexual assault or something else that seems like it may not apply to me or my work center," he said.

Neild recently received the Green Dot Bystander Award during the Domestic Violence Prevention Month opening ceremony held at Covenant House Alaska.

Melissa Emmal, deputy director for Abused Women's Aid in Crisis, presented the award. The Green Dot program is aimed at stopping incidents of violence before they start, Emmal said.

Violence is not tolerated, and everyone is expected to do their part, she said.

"Do what I did, and make a conscious choice to intervene if [you] see something like that," Neild recommended. "When it came up, I'd already made the choice, when I watched the [training] video.

"I wouldn't be the person who just walked past. I'd already made the choice, so I acted on it."