161st ARW welcomes new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161st Air Refueling Wing

The Copperheads recently welcomed a new Sexual Assault Response Coordinator responsible for ensuring the integration and coordination of sexual assault victim care services and prevention education throughout the 161st Air Refueling Wing.

Eric Koeppen, the 161st ARW SARC program manager, has spent time as an Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention coordinator and was the Arizona Army National Guard’s Joint Force Headquarters victim’s advocate for the last four years. Additionally, he has been trained in the Department of Defense sexual assault prevention program, has numerous certifications/qualifications in the field of victim’s advocacy and a background in criminal justice.

The SARC serves as the single point of contact at the Wing for integrating and coordinating sexual assault victim and survivors' care 24/7, 365 days a year. The SARC Office is also responsible for providing Sexual Assault Prevention training throughout the installation.

Koeppen said being the SARC is very important to him because he has seen sexual assaults tear apart the cohesiveness of the units.

“Bottom line, it tears up the readiness of the unit,” Koeppen said. “It is such an important subject to reflect on to make sure this kind of thing is dealt with promptly and swiftly, and to make sure victims are taken care of, in a caring manner , and make sure they know what their rights are.”

Koeppen said once sexual assault is viewed as unaccepted, the culture of the unit will change. Due in large part, he said, because service members look up to their superiors and look to them as to what is acceptable and what is not. If they see leadership acting in a certain manner they take it upon themselves to act in that manner as well.

“This program is so important because there used to be no one you could talk to,” said Koeppen. “You had to tell your first line leader or commander. If the perpetrator was in the chain of command, it made for an uncomfortable situation, and opened the door for retaliation. This lead to a higher number of unreported incidents of sexual assault.”

Koeppen said if someone experiences sexual assault, report it. Service members should feel safe speaking with him and they should know anything they say is held in confidence. Service members have the choice to file an unrestricted or restricted report.

A restricted report is confidential, does not trigger an investigation or command involvement, and allows the victim to access supportive service options. An unrestricted report starts an official investigation, enlists the support of the chain of command, and provides a victim with access to supportive service options.

“We are held under a confidentiality rule,” Koeppen said. “Speaking to me is strictly voluntary, and by talking to me about your situation I will show you your options and your rights.”

If you do not want to initiate a reporting at that time, the conversation will end, but you can come back at any time and file a report anytime. If you just want to get it off your chest, you are also free to go to a chaplain and talk it out with them first, and it’ll stay in their office, there’s no reporting

Koeppen wants victims to know the first step is to stay strong. He said the office is set up to believe the victim and to assist them in all manners, be it legal, medical or advocacy.

“I care about all service members and I’m here to serve them,” Koeppen said. “I want to make sure people are taken care of properly, become whole again. I want to make sure I do the best job that I can for the Airmen of the 161st.”