UVAs in the Marine Corps through Staff Sergeant Downing’s Eyes

by Lance Cpl. Tayler P. Schwamb, Marine Corps Installations Pacific
Stripes Okinawa

CAMP KINSER, OKINAWA, Japan— -- “Before I joined the Marine Corps I was sexually assaulted, which is what instilled my passion to become a UVA,” said Staff Sgt. Tina Downing, Uniform Victim Advocate with Marine Corps Installations Pacific. “I wanted survivors of sexual assault to feel like they had help in a way that I did not.”

Because of her personal experience, in 2013 Tina Downing became a UVA for the Marines Corps.

Downing doesn’t have the typical Marine Corps bearing. Her contagious positivity paired with her passion for helping others has impacted Marines across Okinawa. Her cheery disposition has made her well-known throughout the island, both as a UVA and the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the Camp Kinser Post Office.

Devoted UVAs like Downing dedicate hours every week to raise awareness and help those in need.

“A UVA’s mission is to ensure that proper training and knowledge regarding sexual assault is provided to all Marines,” said Downing. “We want them to understand that from start to finish, we are there for them. As long as they want us, we will be there with them. My personal mission is to make sure that knowledge spreads like wildfire. I want them to know who to contact and what to do. Most of all, I want them to know if something happens we are here.”

It’s very important someone is there, someone will listen, according to Downing. Too many people brush it off, watching from the sidelines without doing anything. It bothered her how people would joke and automatically blame the victim.

“I hated that,” said Downing. “Watching people go through the most horrific thing that they have ever experienced takes a toll on you. When you are helping them fight their demons, sometimes it brings out yours.”

Downing attributes her ability to help so many Marines to her leaders and mentors but Master Gunnery Sgt., Mohammed Eyiowuawi, MCIPAC Postal Chief and Downing’s mentor, says otherwise.

“Eyiowuawi was my first staff sergeant,” said Downing. “He’s known me since I was a head strong Private First Class and a scared single mom with my first kid. I’m lucky enough to have him in my chain of command again because he understands what it means to be a UVA. There will be times were I have to go no questions asked. It gets a little difficult sometimes when I have classes, my job, my family and my life. But with command support you can get anything done. It’s a balancing act and we can always make it work.”

Despite the heavy shoulders and sleepless nights, she wouldn’t change it for the world, according to Downing.

“It’s her personality that has helped so many Marines,” said Eyiowuawi. “She is such an asset to this shop and the Marine Corps because once she wants something, she goes and gets it. I have so much faith in her, she is and will continue to change lives.”

The love for her fellow Marines is what continues to motivate Downing as a UVA.

“I like seeing them smile again, and knowing that they can sleep without nightmares,” said Downing. “They won’t be checking their locks anymore. Just watching as they take over their lives again and watching their families relax because we were able to help them as much as we could, that makes it worth it.”

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