WASHINGTON -- Senior officials announced June 6 that they have appointed a two-star general to lead the Air Force's effort to reduce sexual assault within the ranks, and provide victims the support they need. Maj. Gen. Margaret Woodward was appointed the new director of the reorganized Air Force Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office. In addition to appointing a more senior officer to the position, the Air Force raised the stature of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office by linking it directly to the office of the Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force. "I'm incredibly honored to be picked for something I know is important to our secretary and our chief, and, more importantly, to each and every one of our Airmen," said Woodward, whose last assignment was as the Air Force chief of safety.
Woodward's background is dynamic. It includes a deployment as Coalition Forces Air Component Commander for Operation Odyssey Dawn, and she also investigated the sexual misconduct that took place at Air Force Basic Military Training and technical training. "General Woodward brings a wealth of experience with her to this office," said Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer. "She is no stranger to tackling high priority missions, and she's the right person to take the reins as we address this issue that's so important to the health and readiness of our force." Looking to the near future, Woodward already knows the first step she and her team need to make. "The first thing we need to do is really get our arms around the extent of the problem," she said. "We need to understand the root issues that are exacerbating it, and connect with people inside and outside the Air Force that have creative ideas to fix the problem." The SAPR office Woodward directs is going through major changes, which reflects Air Force senior leadership's commitment to addressing the problem head on, according to Woodward.
"In very lean times, we're increasing billets by more than 30 here," she said. "We are a part of the (Air Force) vice chief of staff's office," Woodward said. "There's a reason for that. The issue of sexual assault has his personal attention and interest. He is personally involved with what we are doing on a daily basis." As the SAPR office is growing in leadership and resources, Woodward is encouraged by Air Force senior leadership's support. "Our Air Force leadership is putting all of their resources, energy and support behind this effort, and they're doing it for the right reasons," she said. "It's absolutely about caring for our Airmen." The stakes are high for the Air Force. The mission is high profile, but senior Air Force officials are confident the SAPR program will prevail in its evolution.
For Woodward, her goal is clear -- she's here for the Airmen.
"I have one goal. It's to make every Airman secure and confident in their service and proud of being a wingman for each and every one of our fellow Airmen, and that there is never a breakdown in that sacred bond," she said. "Until that happens, I'm not done."