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Pentagon names new sexual assault prevention chief

The Army’s director of Strategy, Plans and Policy will take the helm of the Defense Department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office in January, military officials said Monday.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow was selected for the position from a field of nominees from multiple branches of service, military officials said. He has served in the Army for 30 years, held command at various levels and deployed to Iraq multiple times.

Maj. Gen. Gary S. Patton, who has served as the office’s director for 18 months, plans to retire in the spring after nearly 35 years in the Army, officials said.

Patton oversaw the implementation of the DoD’s repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell before taking over as the head of the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a written statement that he met with Patton every week during his tenure and that he brought “transparency, energy, persistence and strong leadership” to the office.

Patton oversaw several initiatives and updates in prevention, investigation, command accountability, legal support, and victim care during his tenure. He said he is “heartened by signs of progress in combating sexual assault.”

“The DoD has made great progress in implementing important policies during Secretary Hagel’s tenure designed to improve confidence and reform the military’s approach to sexual assault prevention and response,” Snow said. “I will strive to sustain these efforts and keep our program moving forward.”

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said Snow has a “tremendous challenge” ahead of him, “as he will be tasked with implementing the sweeping and historic changes in the laws governing sexual assault in the military which we have legislated this year.”

McCaskill said she is committed to making sure the reforms – which include making retaliation against victims a crime – are implemented quickly, and she said she hopes Snow shares that commitment.

Patton and retired Lt. Gen. William Caldwell in August were the target of an inspector general report, which charged that when they were in charge of training the Afghan military, they attempted to restrict their staff from telling investigators about patient abuse and substandard care at the largest military hospital in Afghanistan.

The Project On Government Oversight had called for Patton’s removal, and the group’s executive director, Danielle Brian, said Monday that Patton “was not the right person to lead this important program.”

Patton’s retirement “is the first step in restoring credibility to the Pentagon’s promise of reducing sexual assaults in the military,” Brian said. “Victims of sexual assault in the military who come forward are some of our bravest, most traumatized whistleblowers. They deserve an advocate who is fully committed to bringing wrongdoers to justice.”

Col. Steve Warren, a defense department spokesman, said Patton’s decision to retire is “completely unrelated” to the IG report.

hlad.jennifer@stripes.com
Twitter: @jhlad

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