Leadership Change Nears for Sexual Assault Prevention Office
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 14, 2012 The Defense Department’s sexual assault prevention and response office will seamlessly transition from one experienced leader to another this month, a senior Pentagon official said here today.
In an interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service, Jo Ann Rooney, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, praised the office’s outgoing director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Mary Kay Hertog, who is retiring.
Hertog and her team have done “exemplary” work since the general took charge in August, Rooney said. “But from what I understand, [this is] consistent with her 34 years of military service,” she added.
“In addition to really bringing together the team of people that works there, she’s added some people and has really brought that group together so that they’re working well,” Rooney said. “She wanted to make sure that the focus is on our victims.”
Rooney said Hertog oversaw changes in everything from document retention and case training for counselors to outreach to victims’ advocate groups.
Hertog made sure she was listening and talking to victims, Rooney said, to ensure policies and procedures were put in place to support victims and set commands up for success in dealing with the issue.
Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, who has served in the Army for 33 years, will assume duties as the new SAPRO director. Rooney noted he will be the second two-star general to hold the position, something she said was “critically important” to continue Hertog’s work.
“He has served in a number of commands, and actually commanded several units in both Iraq and Afghanistan,” Rooney said of Patton. “[He’s] actually been doing a lot of work with the NATO initiatives there before coming to the Pentagon, … and he’s very well known, even on [Capitol] Hill, for … his work with the [repeal] of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Patton worked with all service branches to ensure a smooth transition to gays and lesbians being able to serve openly in the military, Rooney said, and has experience dealing with sexual assault cases.
“He is very open to talking about a direct experience he had being part of what would be considered a jury, in civilian terms, for a sexual assault case in which the perpetrator was successfully prosecuted,” she said. His experience in dealing with sexual assault issues as a commander and his involvement in a successful prosecution allow him to understand the challenges he’ll face as SARPO director, she added.
Rooney said she foresees Patton maintaining continuity in the office, building on its successes and continuing to “strive towards an environment free of sexual assault.”
Patton already has been working with Hertog in terms of ongoing initiatives, Rooney said. “He has, by virtue of being in the building and even working side by side with her on some other things, been aware of these initiatives,” she said. “But it’s really about support for our victims and making sure that we continue to look for ways to better support [them].”
Key areas the Defense Department continues to work on, Rooney said, are training personnel for greater chances to successfully prosecute perpetrators of sexual assault, training at the command level, and ensuring commanders know they are responsible for establishing an environment intolerant of sexual assault.
Rooney also pointed to Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta’s emphasis on elevating sexual assault cases to special courts-martial, expedited transfers and keeping Reserve and National Guard service members on active duty to assist in the prosecution of cases and ensure victims have access to all support services.
Rooney noted the Defense Department has been “extremely fortunate” to have such “tremendous” leadership from Hertog and to follow her service with Patton and his “broad range of experience.”
“When you have someone that has done such a great job, they really set the bar very high,” she said. “So I think as a department, and across our services, we are just very, very fortunate to have one, and now two, very experienced, terrific leaders to take on, again, something that’s very critical.”