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National Bullying Prevention Month

October 2013 marks the eighth annual national Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. It is important for Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Airmen to recognize and prevent bullying to maintain the quality of the world’s greatest Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tabatha Zarrella/Released)

October 2013 marks the eighth annual national Bullying Prevention Month in the United States. It is important for Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Airmen to recognize and prevent bullying to maintain the quality of the world’s greatest Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tabatha Zarrella/Released)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- This October marks the eighth annual Bullying Prevention Month, a campaign started in the United States by the National Center for Bullying Prevention. According to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adult bullying affects an estimated 12 million Americans in the workplace.

Bullying and its prevention has become a major concern in today's world, happening not only in civilian life, but in the military workplace as well.

"Yes, bullying in the military happens," said Master Sgt. Micki Kistler, 20th Comptroller Squadron and Wing Staff Agency first sergeant. "I think the most common type is peer-to-peer bullying. It can be something that you might not even realize you are doing because maybe you grew up with a different background than somebody else. You might not even realize the things you say could be taken as bullying."

Although bullying often happens face-to-face, it also happens through social media.

"Something I don't think we have addressed yet, and are struggling with, is cyber-bullying" said Kistler. "There is nothing I can do if somebody posts something on your Facebook page that's a bullying message, unless you bring it to me. I won't see it because it happens outside of the duty section. And if you don't tell me, I don't know what your Facebook page looks like, unless you're friends with somebody in your unit and they come tell me. You could be getting bullied for a whole year and I wouldn't have any idea. You could be at the point where you're ready to do something drastic."

One major part of bullying prevention is education.

"What we need to do is educate our Airmen about it," said Kistler. "With all of the harassment and discrimination briefings Airmen get, I think it covers mostly what we are talking about with bullying. I think what people don't understand is they're calling it straight discrimination, when actually it can also be considered bullying."

Although education helps to prevent bullying, sometimes the best way to stop it is by actually stepping into the situation.

"If you see someone bullying an Airman, all it takes is simply stepping in and saying 'Hey knock it off', and you pull the Airman aside who's being bullied and ask if they're alright," said Kistler. "If you see it's going on and you ignore it, then you're almost as guilty as the person doing the bullying. We wear this uniform and we have a responsibility to each other to be wingmen, and if you do not step in and do something about the situation, then you're wrong."

Even with education and stepping in to stop it when we see it, bullying in every form is unlikely to stop completely. With that being said, it's important to know what to do if you are being bullied.

"Unfortunately, I don't think we will ever be able to completely stop all of the bullying" said Kistler. "If you are being bullied don't just hold it in, tell someone. I don't want anyone to sit there and be bullied and not tell anybody because maybe they are embarrassed to inform their chain of command."

However, there are other options to preventing and stopping it other than involving your chain of command.

"It's important to use your chain of command, but you don't have to with something like this" said Fred Gordon, 20th Fighter Wing director of equal opportunity. "If you use your chain of command and you are not satisfied, then the equal opportunity office or inspector general is the route to take. The key is to get resolution and preferably at the lowest level and as quickly as possible in order to get an individual back to work. If needed, the equal opportunity office and inspector general can and will make referrals if necessary" said Gordon.

"There are so many ways to deal with bullying; go to your first sergeant, a chaplain, the IG or even security forces depending on what's going on," added Kistler.