JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Instead of spending time on the artillery range or maintaining Stryker vehicles, thousands of soldiers were in an Army classroom Tuesday, learning about preventing and reporting sexual harassment and assault.

We cannot have this in our military, said Major General Stephen Lanza, commander of Joint Base Lewis-McChord s 7th Infantry Division.

Lanza blames an increase of sexual abuse claims within the military on a breakdown of trust.

He said soldiers have told him they are being taken advantage of by fellow soldiers and fear punishment if they report it.

He ordered the one-day seminar for his near-20,000 soldiers as a way to reaffirm the climate of trust, ensuring victims will be protected if they come forward.

Lanza said the military is to blame.

Over the last decade as we ve had fights in Afghanistan and Iraq we ve probably taken our eyes off the ball here in some respects, Lanza said.

Since the division established at JBLM, Lanza said his office has had 44 reports of sexual assault from within the ranks.

When I first came in, it wasn t really on the forefront of things, said Sgt. Derrick Dasalla, who joined the Army three years ago.

Dasalla said the seminar taught him where to go to report harassment and why reporting even a minor incident is worthwhile.

We re not letting the small things go by so they can escalate into bigger things in the future, said Dasalla.

Read or Share this story: