Keesler celebrates anniversary of teal rope program

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Stephan Coleman
  • 81st Training Wing Public Affairs
The technical training environment is a constantly moving machine, widely powered by the Airmen that comprise it. Different leadership categories are designated with colored ropes of which the sexual assault prevention and response office "Teal Rope" is the newest.

The first 42 members of the 81st Training Group student Teal Rope program were roped as liaisons to the SAPR office in a ceremony Oct. 15, 2012.

"People ask, 'Why a rope, why students?'" said Sandy Browne, 81st Training Wing SAPR program manager. "Research has indicated that if a person is sexually assaulted, a peer is most likely the first person the individual will talk to about what happened."

In the Fall of 2011, the work began on the research to formalize the teal rope idea, adopted from Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas., into a written instruction at Keesler. By summer of 2012, the detailed program concept was presented to and fully endorsed by 81st TRW leadership.

"The enthusiasm that new Airmen arrive with is very inspiring," said Capt. Tina Tissot, 81st TRW SAPR program deputy. "After the initial members were roped up, the momentum for the program continued to grow."

"Since startup, the program has processed 415 applications, conducted 200 interviews, accepted 140 airmen and grown from the initial 42 to a current cadre of 69," said Browne.

The number of Teal Ropes fluctuates as tech school Airmen enter and leave the Triangle at various intervals. The constant influx of new Airmen means regular SAPR briefings and dedicated airmen to the program, said Staff Sgt. Timothy Hite, 335th Training Squadron military training leader.

"Being a Teal Rope takes a lot of courage, understanding, empathy and desire to not only do the right thing but also make themselves available in time of need," said Hite. "The basic ins-and-outs of sexual assault is something we all should know, but a Teal Rope takes the responsibility a bit further."

The Teal Rope members are specifically trained to assist any that approach them. They might walk someone into the office or call the SAPR hotline to refer someone to us, making the process less intimidating, said Tissot.

"Having airmen who are trained to assist in difficult situations with sensitivity is important in the reporting and recovery process," said Browne. "The Teal Rope members are a force multiplier for the SAPR program and are on the front lines of the fight against sexual assault."

Becoming a Teal Rope starts with a simple application, said Hite. Airmen that are interested fill out the form and if their technical school is long enough they are selected and interviewed by the SAPR office.

"It's important for Teal Rope Airmen to have a longer tech school," said Hite. "That way they become more comfortable in their role and more recognizable by the other Airmen."

Airman 1st Class Kalynn Mitchell, 335th TRS student, suggests applicants take the responsibility seriously.

"Students interested in becoming a Teal Rope need to make sure it's what they want to do," said Mitchell. "You could very well deal with real world problems and may be the only source of help for a fellow Airman."

While exact numbers cannot be reported, Hite is assured that cases have dropped in number.

What's important is that these airmen serve as a visual reminder that intervention is only a person away, said Browne.

"People of all walks of life will approach you for help in various areas, not just sexual assault related problems," said Mitchell. "It's not just about preventing sexual assault, or helping with the aftermath, it's about building a community here."

With the Teal Ropes in place there will continue to be a constant, walking, breathing reminder of physical and social respect in the 81st TRG.

"The one year anniversary of the Teal Rope program marks just the beginning of the future of the program and the future of our Air Force in combating sexual assault in our military," said Tissot. "I hope the Airmen that are a part of the program will take it with them and continue to be an inspiration and support to other Airmen throughout their careers. Cooperation with the system and ultimately the accountability of offenders will create a safer environment so that all Air Force members are mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically ready to complete the mission."