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SEOUL — An 8th Army task force will meet with commanders, civilian workers and enlisted troops across the peninsula in coming weeks to study how to prevent sexual assaults among soldiers in South Korea.

The task force, which includes top 8th Army officials, was formed at the direction of commanding general Lt. Gen. John Johnson to evaluate the unit’s sexual assault prevention and response measures, said Brig. Gen. David Conboy, who’s heading up the task force.

“We just can’t afford to have anybody lost from our formation here in the fast pace of Korea,” said Conboy, deputy commanding general for the 8th Army. He said the task force was not being formed in response to a single incident.

Overall, the 8th Army’s sexual assault rates are in line with those of the rest of the Army and are trending downward, he said. Eighth Army officials said Tuesday that there were 86 reported sexual assaults - substantiated and unsubstantiated - in 2010.

But the 11-member group’s work comes at a time of year when the 8th Army typically sees a months-long spike in the number of sexual assaults, Conboy said. He said nobody knows why those numbers increase during the summer, but he speculated that it could be due to more people going out during the warmer weather or the influx of troops that typically arrives in South Korea during those months.

The task force met last week with officials and troops at U.S. Army Garrison-Humphreys in Pyeongtaek and camps Henry, Walker and Carroll in Daegu. Those visits included meetings with company commanders, unit victim advocates, medical professionals, military and civilian Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, and separate discussion groups with lower enlisted males and females, Conboy said.

The task force will visit other bases in May and June, including U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan in Seoul and camps Red Cloud and Casey in Area I.

Conboy said sexual assaults usually involve young soldiers on their first tour, and often involve alcohol.

“Often the drinking may occur somewhere else, but the sexual assaults occur in our barracks,” he said. “That’s a huge concern.”

Depending on its findings, the task force might recommend anything from installing self-locking doors in new barracks to bringing back Sex Signals, a touring program that uses humor, improvisation and audience participation to discuss preventing sexual assault and appropriate behaviors between sexes — a method that resonates with young soldiers, Conboy said.

“You just can’t get that across from a colonel giving a PowerPoint brief,” he said.

The 8th Army will post information on its Facebook page for soldiers, civilian employees and family members who want to give their input to the task force.

The task force will give its recommendations to Johnson in late June or early July, Conboy said.

rowlanda@pstripes.osd.mil

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