Top Enlisted Leaders Urge Candor, Trust to Combat Sexual Assault

Story Number: NNS200214-04Release Date: 2/14/2020 9:57:00 AM
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By MC1 Sarah Villegas, Office of the Master Chief Petty Officer Public Affairs

Albuquerque, New Mexico (NNS) -- Navy leaders and their peers in academia joined together for the Regional Discussion on Sexual Assault and Harassment at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, Feb. 6.

Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Troy Black joined collegiate counterparts, Sailors, and Marines for a discussion on climate and culture within military ranks and college campuses as it pertains to sexual assault and harassment. In an effort to eliminate sexual assault and harassment across the services and both public and military universities and colleges, leaders and attendees shared thoughts, best practices, and experiences tied to these issues.

Both leaders spoke to “white noise,” or low level behaviors, which later give rise to more serious behavioral issues. MCPON Smith categorized white noise as comments, jokes, and innuendos.

“Some might perceive white noise as harmless, but in reality it numbs us and introduces dangerous vulnerabilities to the trust relationship between teammates,” Smith said. “We have a clear obligation to call out precursor behaviors that, much like heat and flammable materials represent risk factors for fire, increase the likelihood of much worse behaviors occurring. By ensuring white noise behaviors and attitudes are clearly not seen as acceptable or appropriate, we prevent worse events by removing any fuel for the fire to burn.”

Whether in port, on patrol, or at a college dorm party, many young service members and students experience similar pressures about drinking, sex, and other societal norms. Smith and Black, the sea service’s top-ranking enlisted leaders, urged Sailors, Marines, and students to speak with each other to find common solutions through bystander intervention and other initiatives they believe have helped create positive change and momentum in their respective communities.

“The Commandant has recently stated that ‘The Marine Corps developed its warfighting spirit and character in the values of honor, courage, and commitment;’ that is our culture,” Black said. The Marine Corps’ culture stresses taking care of our Marines and sailors by holding all of its members accountable to high professional standards of performance, conduct and discipline.  Our leaders must do everything within their power to ensure our force succeeds.  “As leaders, we cannot let those who commit sexual assault, sexual harassment, or any adverse subculture erode that which has led to our continued success as Marines.

For more information and to learn how you can get involved with the Department of the Navy Regional Discussions on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment, follow


 Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russell Smith speaks during a panel at the Regional Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at the University of New Mexico.
200206-N-YG104-0040 ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (Feb. 6, 2020) Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russell Smith speaks during a panel at the Regional Discussion on Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment at the University of New Mexico. The regional discussion creates a forum for university and military leaders to share best practices and develop strategies to reduce the prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment and related undesirable behavior in America's education system. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas/Released)
February 10, 2020
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