Drinks and Dialogue: Encouraging respect through discussion

Drinks and Dialogue: Encouraging respect through discussion

by Senior Airman Katrina Heikkinen, 8th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Kunsan Air Base

KUNSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea  -- More than 50 Airmen attended Drinks and Dialogue, an open forum aimed at encouraging honest communication and respect amongst Wolf Pack members here, April 18.

Created and hosted by Staff Sgt. Brandi Howard, 8th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance services technician, the quarterly event provides Airmen an opportunity to give feedback in a retribution-free environment, covering a wide range of topics including sexual assault, domestic abuse, relationships and culture.

"I wanted to break down the barriers of conversation by having a guided discussion to help foster a more respectful environment," Howard said. "Having events like this benefits us at Kunsan because we're in such a small environment here, and yet we still don't really talk. We may converse with our friends and our coworkers, but sometimes it's hard to be honest with the people we're closest with."

Tech. Sgt. Daniel Johnson, 8th Medical Support Squadron Tricare operations and patient administration flight chief and Drinks and Dialogue co-host, said many Airmen at Kunsan can benefit from attending events that value and encourage sincere feedback and interaction amongst attendees.

"There will always be differences, but it's important to address different issues and listen to one another without judgment because we can utilize these skills in and outside of work," Johnson said. "This specially applies to Airmen of the Wolf Pack as we are all in a foreign country with a different culture than what we're used to."

In observance of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, the candid forum was also an opportunity for the Kunsan Sexual Assault Theater Group to promote awareness and prevention through acted-out skits demonstrating realistic scenarios, including domestic abuse involving a married couple, sexual assault involving alcohol and work-place sexual assault.

"This voluntary event asks people to talk about things most people aren't comfortable talking about in a formal setting," said Capt. Claudia Santos, 8th Fighter Wing Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. "Here, Airmen have the chance to discuss topics that are in the back of their minds, but are rarely addressed directly, as well as see and react to existing issues involving sexual assault and domestic abuse as acted out by the Kunsan Sexual Assault Theater Group."

Aimed at not only demonstrating how assaults can occur, but also eliciting emotions from the crowd, the performances tied into additional discussions on personal relationships at home and in the work place.

"Being open with each other and having conversations like this is crucial in creating a climate of dignity and respect, whether it be here at Kunsan or within society at large," said 1st Lt. Earon Brown, 8th Fighter Wing deputy chief of public affairs and alternate SARC. "We're all different people with different backgrounds, and bringing everything to the table is another way we can address beliefs and perceptions that can lead to misunderstandings, abuse or sexual assault. At the end of the day, talking honestly with one another can go a long way."

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