Airmen helped install lights around Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. (Tech. Sgt. Jeromy K. Cross)
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(Bryan Smith / Staff)
Airmen have helped install 150 new lights along alleys, walkways and in housing areas at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, to help combat a rising number of sexual assaults on the base.
Sexual assaults on airmen in Afghanistan more than doubled in 2009 — from four to nine. Eight of those 2009 assaults were at Bagram and one was at Kandahar Airfield, said Capt. Jose Milan, the service's sexual assault response coordinator for Afghanistan.
Most victims knew their assailants, he said.
"We are trying to mitigate any circumstances that might come into play dealing with sexual assaults, sexual harassment or overall safety of our personnel," Milan said.
Sexual assaults range from attempted fondling to rape.
Senior Airman Stacey Lauterbach said she expects the new lights to help.
"Before I got here, I was told sexual assault was rampant in and around Bagram," Lauterbach said in an Air Force News Service story. "I definitely feel safer seeing the lights at night going to the dining facility."
The growing frequency of assaults on airmen is not unique. At Bagram, the Army's sexual assault response team worked with 45 victims in 2009, Milan said. In 2008, 22 cases of sexual assault were reported to Army counselors across Afghanistan, a Defense Department report said.
The numbers increased as more troops arrived.
About 4,300 airmen are assigned to Bagram, 700 more than were stationed at the base a year ago. Another 3,500-plus airmen work at Kandahar and at smaller installations across Afghanistan.
The troop surge will add 60,000 more service members than were there in January 2009, raising the total U.S. troop strength to about 100,000 by the end of this year.
The new lights on the sprawling installation, including 16 inside the Camp Cunningham and Camp Yuen housing areas occupied by the Air Force, won't be a drain on the base's energy supply.
Each of the $2,200 lights has a solar cell panel attached to the fixture. During the day, the panel charges a battery that will power the light for nine hours each night.