Duluth Airmen serves in critical role as victim advocate

April 17, 2020 (DULUTH, Minnesota) — In 2011, an Airmen ten years into his career saw a new opportunity where he could serve in a position that would help protect fellow service members from harm every day. He’d be able to help individuals one-on-one and train his unit at the same time.

            “As a service member, my job is to protect my fellow service members from harm,” Senior Master Sgt. Christopher McLeod said. “And I saw a need, my heart got pulled toward it, and almost a decade after my decision to become a victim advocate, I have zero regrets.”

            McLeod is the fuels management superintendent at the 148th Fighter Wing in Duluth, Minnesota, and serves as a victim advocate.

            “Being a victim advocate to me means that I’m protecting the people who protect America,” he said.

            A victim advocate provides non-clinical crisis intervention, referral, and ongoing non-clinical support to sexual assault survivors. Victim advocates provide liaison assistance on behalf of the sexual assault survivor, with other organizations and agencies on victim care matters and report directly to the sexual assault response coordinator when performing victim advocacy duties.

            While working in the finance section at the 148th FW in 2011, McLeod worked in the same building as the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program office. He noticed that the unit didn’t have any men as victim advocates at the time. He believed he could fill that need and help survivors. So, he asked to become one.

            McLeod joined the Air National Guard in July 2001. About half of his military career has been in victim advocacy. People can come and go from the position for various reasons, but McLeod has been a constant at the 148th FW.

“I want to be the change, and I want people to be the change. I don’t want to just watch it,” McLeod said.

            He strives to help create an environment of dignity and respect, which means that there is no room for sexual harassment, assault, or anything that doesn’t build a person up. In and out of uniform, McLeod sets an example of what it means to care for service members. In 2021, he will mark 20 years of service and plans to retire soon after. He hopes to continue to serve others after he earns his Ph.D. in higher education as a college professor.

            The Minnesota National Guard has three dedicated full-time staff members in the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program office. They ensure the victim advocates at the units across the state, like McLeod, are up to date on training and policy in addition to maintaining the overall SAPR program.

            To learn more about the MNNG SAPR program, visit https://minnesotanationalguard.ng.mil/sharp/.

            If you would like to talk to someone about a sexual assault, visit www.SafeHelpline.org to receive live, one-on-one confidential help with a trained professional through a secure instant-messaging format. You can also call the telephone hotline (877-995-5247) to speak with Safe Helpline staff for personalized advice and support. Safe Helpline staff can also transfer callers to installation or base Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs)/On-call Victim Advocates (VAs), civilian rape crisis centers or the Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Story by Sgt. Sebastian Nemec, JFHQ Public Affairs Office