Maine National Guard bids farewell to trusted advocate; welcomes new one

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AUGUSTA, MAINE (08/22/2021) (readMedia)-- Ms. Christina Zabierek has taken the reins as the Joint Force Headquarters' sexual assault response coordinator (SARC), a position held for the past six years by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Kartika Wright, who officially retires this fall after over 30 years of service.

"Chief Wright has made great strides in influencing an organizational culture that encourages supporting victims," said Lt. Col. Zebulan Murray, deputy chief of staff for personnel. "Her impact will be long-lasting within the organization and we wish her well in her new endeavors."

Wright began her military career in 1990 as an enlisted logistics specialist and began working full time for the National Guard in 2000. After 13 years as an enlisted soldier, she became a warrant officer in 2003, and left the logistics field in 2015 to utilize her skills and education in social work in the sexual assault prevention and response program (SAPR).

The SAPR program provides military and community services for soldiers, airmen and adult dependents who are impacted by sexual assault.

"It does not matter when or where an incident occurred – before or during military service, in a duty or nonduty status," said Zabierek. "We are able to provide the appropriate resources and support."

Wright says that she has seen a number of improvements in the SAPR program during her time in the position. Such improvements include the addition of a full time SARC at the 101st Air Refueling Wing, increased leadership engagement regarding prevention and response, and an increase in willingness to report inappropriate behavior by all cross sections of the organization.

"There have been a number of significant changes and there are more on the way," said Wright. "The program is still relatively young and there is a lot of movement and growth. We [the military] are a slice of society, and sexual violence is a serious issue in society. The Department of Defense continues to do its best to prevent sexual violence and ensure the best response is available when it happens. The SAPR program is victim/survivor centric, and we are here to support victim/survivors as they heal from one of the most traumatic events that someone may experience."

Fresh off a 16-month tour with the special victims counsel legal office at the National Guard Bureau, Zabierek is already looking for ways to continue to build on Wright's progress, with a particular interest in additional training opportunities for victim advocates.

"The more training and experience they have, the more ready they will be when the time comes to assist victim/survivors," said Zabierek. "I am also interested in working on empowering soldiers with more training on intervention and prevention techniques. Also, like all areas of the military, we must adapt to the ever-changing landscape of our operational environment. By utilizing technology, we can modernize the way we communicate, train, and support our service members."

Zabierek began her military career as a flautist in the 195th Army Band in Bangor and then served as a paralegal noncommissioned officer for the 120th Regional Support Group, 133rd Engineer Battalion, and Joint Force Headquarters. In 2014, she received an appointment to warrant officer as the state legal administrator.

"Take care of your fellow service members and their families," said Wright, when asked for her parting words. "Service to community and country is so rewarding. Even though what we may be called to do may put us in harm's way, we should always have trust that our fellow service members have our backs -respect is key, kindness matters. A simple action on the part of one individual may make a huge difference in the life of another. If you see something happening around you that isn't quite right, please say something."

"I need your help, I need your ideas, and I need your voice," said Zabierek, when asked for her message to service members. "Please let me know what is working and what is not working out in the field. Together we can continue to make the Maine National Guard a safer, happier place to work."

Previous press on the SAPR program can be found at: