JBB holds sexual assault self-defense class

Story and Photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — More than a dozen Soldiers, Airmen and civilians spent Christmas Eve at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, learning sexual assault defense techniques.

"Every day, 240 women are attacked in America," said Air Force Staff Sgt. Rafael Strothers, a flyaway security team member with the 332nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron and a Charlottesville, Va., native.

Strothers and the other instructors, all flyaway security team members, demonstrated how attacks are likely to start and taught students how to react and counter those attacks.

"There's nothing wrong with having a tool to use in any given situation," he said.

Students learned how to break a choke hold, standing and on the ground, using martial arts and Modern Army Combatives Program techniques, said Strothers. The instructors also focused on arm and wrist control moves and pressure points.

"These moves are designed to be easy but you have to practice them," he said.

The more students practice those maneuvers, said Strothers, the more they will become automatic. In a dangerous situation, they will be able to react quickly and appropriately.

"I can't wait to practice on my coworkers," said Sgt. Tiffany Miner, a cargo specialist with the 159th Seaport Operations Company, 80th Ordnance Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and a Dallas native.

Although the moves were simple and easy to execute, she said she could see how effective they were when she practiced them on the instructors.

The class was part of a two-tiered instruction program, said Air Force Maj. Allan Bigtas, the sexual assault response coordinator with the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing and a Kohola, Hawaii, native.

"You try to prevent sexual assault through education, but you also want to give the public tools to defend against it," he said.

Bigtas, who organized the event along with the volunteer instructors, said holding self-defense classes was better than handing out whistles, because 80 to 90 percent of rapes are committed by an acquaintance. This means the victim might have willingly gone to a secluded place with the attacker where a whistle would be ineffective, he said.

After the instruction portion of the class, students were given the chance to practice defense techniques on the instructors. One by one, the students fell victim to a simulated attack and used the moves they learned to react and counter it.

"You now have a few tools to defend yourself and make them regret attacking you," said Strothers.


news photo
Sgt. Tiffany Miner, a cargo specialist with the 159th Seaport Operations Company and a Dallas native, practices a wrist-control self-defense move with instructors at a sexual assault self-defense class Dec. 24 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Keith S. VanKlompenberg)