Soldiers sharpen their resolve to prevent sexual assault and harassment
Andersen Air Force Base, Guam -- Task Force Talon, a detachment of the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, dedicated the first week of April, 2016, to Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
This week was about taking time to emphasize the SHARP program and communicate its messages, which encourage soldiers to intervene to prevent sexual assaults, to act and put a stop to sexual harassment or assault no matter the time, and to stay motivated to do what is right together.
“This week is all about emphasizing SHARP,” said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Keith Barnes, TFT SHARP victim advocate. “It lets the junior soldiers, who have a daily battle rhythm, know that the command will take an entire week and dedicate it to SHARP, as it is a priority.”
TFT dedicated a tree outside Tinian Hall on Andersen AFB to serve as a reminder of their pledge, “Not in my Squad, Not in our Army, We are trusted professionals,” that strives for an environment free of sexual harassment and assault.
“Something different that we are doing this year is dedicating a tree,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Jeffery Slown, TFT commander, “It’s going to be between Tinian Hall, the dorms that our soldiers live in, and Magellan Inn. It’ll be a tree dedicated to saying ‘not in our barracks, not on our base, not in our community.’ Taking that pledge, having that reminder, having that tree out there every day to look at and know that we shouldn’t be allowing those things to happen.”
In addition to the tree dedication the task force designed poster boards, which were displayed at a 5k they hosted.
“Each unit within TFT came up with a board design that embodied the SHARP principles,” Barnes said. “Some of the soldiers from each unit displayed the boards so runners would know what the run was about.”
Throughout the week Barnes facilitated SHARP classes to ensure the entire unit received the messages that the command wished to share concerning the month.
“The focus of the class was providing a baseline of knowledge on the policies and practices of the SHARP program while promoting a culture change among the soldiers,” Barnes said. “The change starts with us. The things that we currently accept in our military culture we have to start viewing as problems in order to be a part of that culture change.”
The classes also covered communicating across gender, generational and cultural differences and suicide prevention through identification of warning signs and use of effective coping skills.
SHARP is a priority all year but receives extra focus through the entire month of April. The month is scheduled to culminate in a Joint SAPR board scheduled for April 27, 2016.
“For the last four years SHARP has been the number one priority for the Army and now we’ve gone to a state of readiness,” Barnes said. “The SHARP program states to the soldiers that sexual harassment and assault is serious enough to have its own dedicated program. SHARP lets everyone in the military and the Army know about prevention and intervention, that there are resources available to everybody and that SHARP is not something that the Army takes lightly.”
Barnes used this week to connect with the unit’s soldiers and inform them of the services and skills the victim advocate have to offer.
“SHARP week allows me to put a face to the name of victim advocates. It allows me to give insight of who I am to soldiers. Often times after the SHARP brief I’ll get a phone call because the soldier was able to see that when I’m giving the class, I’m not just reading slides. They can see I’m passionate about it. It allows me to be transparent with the soldiers, so that I can build trust with them and promote that if something does happen they will feel confident enough to reach out to me.”
Although the battle against sexual harassment and assault is not over, the SHARP program has helped change the way soldiers react in the event that they become a victim themselves.
“The propensity to report unrestricted has increased from SHARP’s inception. Although sexual assaults are still occurring, more of the incidents are being reported unrestricted so that the culprit can be caught and prosecuted and put out of the military.”