New AF violence prevention specialists training begins

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Daniel Phelps
  • 94th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Representatives from the major commands and more than 30 Air Force installations attended training at Dobbins Air Reserve Base July 18-29 to become violence prevention specialists.

The Specialists for the Primary Prevention of Violence is being set up as a new helping agency for Airmen and their families. By using advanced scientific techniques, the agency will be dedicated to preventing all aspects of violence, from domestic to sexual assault, and suicide. SPPVs will be in place on all Air Force bases worldwide in April 2017.

“There has been increased interest over the past year and a half to focus on prevention rather than responding to situations after the fact,” said Dr. Andra Tharp, an Air Force sexual assault prevention and response prevention expert. “The Air Force heard that and created this position to address that issue.”

Groups assisting with the training included the Division of Violence Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Green Dot Etc.

“When we learned the position was authorized by the secretary of the Air Force, we engaged the CDC to give the prevention specialists the strongest training possible into doing what works and using a public health approach to prevent interpersonal and self-directed violence," Tharp said. "We are thrilled that CDC has partnered with us for this training.”

The CDC provided a background for the training to give the specialists a strong foundation in the prevention science underlying violence prevention, which will equip them in their roles, Tharp added.

When designing the training, the organizers thought about what key competencies the specialists needed in order to be valuable resources at their installation, Tharp said. One piece was the CDC’s ability to provide the prevention background and research; the other was applying the public health to prevention practice, which was where Green Dot came in.

“We’ve never done training to this extent like we have with the Air Force,” said Dr. James Mercy, the director of the Division of Violence Prevention with the CDC. “We see the Air Force as a pioneer in prevention. We thought it would be a great opportunity to work together where we could learn from each other.”

Dr. Dorothy Edwards, the Green Dot founder and organizer, said that for a long time, interpersonal violence prevention was solely focused on things like telling men not to do it and women not to walk alone at night.

“We then realized there was a third role, the bystander,” Edwards said. “So, instead of focusing on what not to do, we started focusing on what can we do.”

Both agencies had a past partnership with the Air Force, but on smaller level. This training allowed them to expand that partnership.

“We had been working with the military on violence prevention for a while,” Mercy said. “We wanted to strengthen our partnership with the Air Force because they have been a pioneer in this, especially with suicide prevention. We thought this would be a great opportunity for us to learn from each other and prevent further violence in the United States.”

Green Dot held training sessions at individual bases for few years, Edwards said.

“When the (Air Force) decided to do a comprehensive approach, the dialogue began,” she said. “They didn’t want to just wing it. They were driven by the research.”

The research and expertise in violence prevention came from the CDC.

“The CDC is the largest organization in the world in regards to preventing violence,” Mercy said. “We have subject matter experts in different types of violence, covering the whole range. That expertise includes how you measure, prevent and protect from different types of violence. That’s the information that was shared in our training, sharing what we have found out through several decades of research.”

The CDCs experts taught how to take that information and use it to implement programs on the ground, Mercy added. They also spoke on the magnitude of the problem in the U.S. -- who is at a higher risk of violence, characteristics of victims, who is most likely to be a perpetrator and specific programs that seem to work.

“It’s a lot of information, but it is easily understood,” Mercy said.

The research from the CDC was used to develop Green Dot, Edwards said. So, the flow from the CDC to Green Dot was easily followed as Edwards taught implementation.

“The Green Dot strategy is to reinvigorate people and let them know they can do something,” Edwards said. “This is about being realistic about what the bystanders can do. It’s not that easy to just step in. Part of this is acknowledging that good people can get stuck and have barriers. This gives bystanders more natural and realistic tools.”

The training group was excited about the future of this position and how they have been able to empower the SPPVs.

“The Air Force is so driven right now to getting this right,” Edwards said. “This is an extraordinary position, and it has been an exciting training to be part of.”