Dayton, OH –Today, Congressman Michael Turner (R-OH), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, hosted Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (D-MA), at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

“Today, I was glad to host my friend and colleague, Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

We were both honored to meet with Mary Lauterbach and Merle Wilberding, two staunch advocates for the elimination of sexual assault from our armed forces," said Congressman Mike Turner.

"In the most tragic of circumstances, the issue of military sexual assault was brought to my attention through the story of Mary's daughter, U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Maria Lauterbach," said Congressman Mike Turner.

Maria, who grew up in Vandalia, Ohio, was proudly serving her country when she was allegedly sexually assaulted by a senior enlisted member in her unit. After reporting her assault, Maria was forced to continue serving alongside her assailant. For eight months, Maria lived with the aftermath of her attack, and then her accused attacker struck again killing her and her unborn child.

The tragic story of Maria Lauterbach demonstrated significant problems with the Department of Defense’s Sexual Assault policy. Thanks to the help of Maria’s family, her mother Mary, and the advocacy of Dayton attorney Merle Wilberding on their behalf, her story has not been forgotten and has helped shape the laws created in the House Armed Services Committee and policies within the DoD.

"Since 2007, Congresswoman Tsongas and I have worked closely together to pass substantive, bipartisan legislation that would prevent a tragedy like Maria Lauterbach's from every happening again,” said Congressman Turner.

“Today, I was very pleased to hear that the Air Force remains fully committed to preventing future sexual assault, protecting victims, and assuring that any perpetrators are prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.

While Congresswoman Tsongas and I were glad to see the incredible dedication of the commanders and see evidence that the system is changing, our job is not done. We will continue to work closely together to protect our men and women in uniform,” said Congressman Turner.

“For years Rep. Turner and I have built a foundation of respect and partnership, grounded in a mutual desire to do what’s right and what’s best for the men and women of the United States military,” said Congresswoman Tsongas.

“I highly value our continued partnership to combat military sexual assault and change the military culture that has enabled those crimes to occur for too long. Military sexual assault is a critical, complex issue and I know both Mr. Turner and I are dedicated to furthering our work together to continue enacting meaningful reform.

My sincerest thanks go out to Rep. Turner and the dedicated men and women at Wright Patterson for their hospitality, and for showing me an up close look at some of the important, cutting-edge work being done at their facility,” said Congresswoman Tsongas.

As co-chairs of the Military Sexual Assault Prevention Caucus, Rep. Tsongas and Rep. Turner have worked closely together since 2007 to eliminate sexual assault from our military. Together, they have successfully passed meaningful reform that takes action to eradicate these crimes and that holds our military leaders, service members, and military justice system to the highest standard.

Monday, Rep. Tsongas and Rep. Turner received a detailed overview of the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) Program at Wright Patterson Air Force Base from lawyers, investigators, medical professionals, and major commanders.  Via a secure teleconference, their counterparts located at Hanscom AFB also provided a detailed description and overview of their response to sexual assault.

Rep. Turner also ensured Congresswoman Tsongas had the opportunity to see the innovative research and technological development occurring at the Simulation and Analysis Facility (SIMAF) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

On Tuesday, August 19, 2014, Rep. Niki Tsongas will host Rep. Turner in Massachusetts for a tour of Hansom Air Force Base and a series of meetings and roundtable discussions related to their work on the House Armed Services Committee. Topics will include their joint efforts to combat military sexual assault, ways to improve economic development in their respective regions and more.