An ominous voice comes over the speakers.
“I am the ulcer in the belly of your organization, the degradation of your seven core values — I’m sexual harassment and assault; I’m a combat-minimizer. If you can’t win the war against me, you’ll never be able to defeat your country’s enemies.”
As the spoken word poem by Chief Warrant Officer 3 Edward Wilson finishes, the room is silent.
The senior and junior leaders of both 17th Field Artillery Brigade and 201st Expeditionary Military Intelligence Brigade came together on Joint Base Lewis-McChord as one for the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program summit March 1 to discuss and understand ways to prevent a culture of sexual harassment and assault within their ranks, the military and the world around them.
“What we would like to do is ensure that this is an opportunity were we can wrap our arms around SHARP as a program and weave it into something that we do day in and day out as a part of our lives.” said Lt. Col. James Dunwoody, 17th FA Bde. deputy commanding officer. “It has to be a program where the tenets are fully embraced by the individuals that have the capacity to effect a change in our organization.”
SHARP reinforces the Army’s commitment to end sexual harassment and assault through policies that help build awareness and prevention through training, education and accountability.
“This is part of the SHARP training,” said Dr. Carolyn West, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Washington-Tacoma. “It is a refresher course to give people some additional information about what we know about sexual assault in the military and some hands on information on what they can do to make culture changes.”
West continued saying that she would like leaders to know they are the ones who are able to set the stage for changing the culture within their units. It is not beyond their ability and power to make those changes.
“It is largely this group (of senior leaders) that can affect change,” Dunwoody said.
The training was broken into two groups, the senior leaders — sergeant first classes and above; and the junior leaders — specialists to staff sergeants along with lieutenants.
“I really want the junior leaders to understand consent,” West said. “I am going to talk about the neurobiology of trauma and how perpetrators operate within the units. I want them to start grappling with hard conversations around social media, revenge porn and how consent seems so easy to determine but it is not an easy topic.”
At the end of the training there was a panel of experts and junior enlisted Soldiers to help both the senior and junior leaders understand how to better speak, teach and mentor. The leaders in both units understand what it is to be in the junior ranks and know that these junior Soldiers are able to see and hear more of what their peers are understanding in the messages and training that they are given.
The leaders want to ensure the messages and training are relevant to these Soldiers.
“There is a gap between the senior leaders and junior Soldiers,” said Spc. Jimmy Lerma, from 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery, 17th FA Bde. “They are using us as the roots, or most direct resource as to what is going on, whether it is the work environment or living environment. I feel like this went really well and there will be a change in the way that we are taught and mentored.”
With readiness being the military’s top priority, sexual harassment and sexual assault have no place within the military, the Army or within the companies and batteries of each of these units.
“This is an opportunity to engage in a discussion and, one way or another, help us embrace the SHARP tenets,” Dunwoody said. “So we may apply it in every aspect of everything we do.”