COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Numbers continue to pour in as the Teal Ribbon Relay hits its mid-point with less than two weeks to go in the Defense Logistics Agency’s signature Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month challenge.
About 1,026 miles connect the Agency’s Major Subordinate Commands, and the relay symbolizes the DLA Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team’s efforts to connect victims to resources enterprise wide. Employees can participate by collecting their miles or steps accumulated each week in April and submitting them to their local Sexual Assault Response Coordinator to “move the baton” across the relay map. Employees are also encouraged to Chalk The Walk by writing supportive messages to survivors and sharing pictures of their efforts to run, walk, bike and even dance their way through the challenge.
These activities highlight the creative ways DLA SARCs have engaged associates in a yearlong period that saw many events transition to nontraditional formats.
“While it is our mission to support survivors all year long, SAAPM provides an opportunity to heighten awareness about sexual violence, highlight available resources, and to continue discussions about consent and ways to prevent sexual violence,” said Shari Murnahan, DLA Land and Maritime Sexual Assault Response Coordinator. “With this month’s events we continue to implement the prevention, education and outreach portion of the SAPR mission, albeit in a virtual manner. It is important to remind employees advocacy and support are still available during these challenging times.”
Results are in from the first two weeks of the relay and several MSCs continue to jockey for top place. Land and Maritime’s baton is currently between Philadelphia and Fort Belvoir, sitting in the middle of the pack. Columbus’ participation tripled, and mileage increased from 70 to 795 in the second week, with marathoner Jerrod Abel earning kudos for the most miles submitted by an individual with more than 130 miles. Aside from Abel’s significant contribution, Murnahan shared that “the meat and potatoes of our MSC’s miles come from a core group of bike riders.”
Abel, an electronics engineer for Technical Quality and Engineering’s Custom Devices Team, serves in the Ohio National Guard and is a member of the All Guard Marathon Team. He’s currently training for the Lincoln Marathon in Nebraska May 2.
Abel said his motivation to run comes from not knowing what the future holds and wanting to live everyday as if it were his last.
“Having the ability to run or walk is a gift so why not use it and build on it?” he explained. “I used to say I’d never run a marathon but once I completed my first one, I was hooked. The feeling of accomplishment after completing it is unlike any other.”
His personal goals dovetail with the Agency’s April challenge, and he hopes others join in to push Land and Maritime to the goal line. Abel has racked up 184 miles heading into the relay’s third week and said he plans to wear teal on his Tuesday runs and to participate in Denim Day on April 28 to bring awareness to SAAPM.
“I hope it helps employees better understand the cause while also raising awareness – so employees can be more vigilant and help others when signs or warnings are apparent,” he said.
Pre-Award Contracting Officer Norma Brookins is using her love of Jazzercise to help the Land and Maritime team. Brookins, of the Strategic Acquisition Programs Directorate, has reached nearly 25,000 steps this month attending dance fitness classes.
While she enjoys the friendly competition between the MSCs, Brookins jokingly admits she can be competitive and wants to see Land and Maritime rank first.
“I feel that I’m somehow connected to all my DLA Land and Maritime community in trying to do something together even when we don’t see each other,” she said.
Brookins said she originally got started with Jazzercise several years ago during another Land and Maritime team-based competition. “We had a couple of people that were really on top of it and accumulating 20,000-plus steps per week,” Brookins recalled. “I wanted to keep up but quickly grew bored of just walking. Thanks to the competition, I started and still do Jazzercise years later. What I like about these competitions is that they can make a positive difference in our routines.”
Brookins said the motivation to maintain her fitness regimen comes from giving herself grace.
“Sometimes I wake up and don’t want to work out,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of troubleshooting to fix that. What finally helped me was establishing a smaller goal per week so I don’t feel frustrated for failing to do the five classes a week I was doing before the pandemic. Now my goal is three classes a week. If I do more, that’s a bonus.”
The relay challenge is an opportunity to push her steps up a notch and Brookins said she hopes others take the opportunity to participate. “I do hope three things for all of us: I hope we remember to have compassion for the victims and courage to speak up; I hope that by joining the relay we feel part of a community because that helps with the isolation; and I hope that we create a healthy habit that might last many years to come.”
Murnahan agreed, adding “The overall goal of SAAPM is to prevent sexual violence and to create a space where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. Prevention is everyone’s responsibility and participation from our Land and Maritime team brings us a few steps closer to that goal.”
The relay runs through April 30 and new participants are welcome. Mileage or step totals can be submitted to Land and Maritime SARC Shari Murnahan each Friday of the month. For more information on the SAPR program, visit https://www.dla.mil/Info/SAPR.aspx