Black Widows share thoughts, stand up to sexual misconduct
June 21, 2013
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - For more than 20,000 soldiers, June 18 was a day to take a stand against sexual misconduct, as the 7th Infantry Division commanding general, Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, issued a division-wide sexual harassment and assault stand-up day across seven brigades at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
Nearly 250 "Black Widow" soldiers in Headquarters Support Company, 7th ID, found themselves in a classroom for Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) training. However, this wasn't the annual SHARP training they may have received in the past.
"We've gone away from PowerPoint training and we have made this training where it is actually engaged training, leader-engaged training, where the audience and the instructors are engaged together," said Lanza.
The soldiers watched taped messages from senior Army leadership, including Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Raymond Odierno and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond F. Chandler III, that reiterated what Lanza said he stands firmly by: sexual harassment and assault cannot and will not be tolerated within the ranks.
Following the video messages, soldiers began a more interactive portion of training where each group had to choose one of three soldiers on a video. The video followed the chosen soldier through his or her daily life, having either witnessed or been a victim of sexual harassment or assault. The video would pause at pivotal points, forcing participants to choose one of four courses of action that would best prevent, address or correct sexual misconduct. Each choice was reviewed and discussed.
The training, supported by sister battalion 5th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, took an updated, virtual and interactive approach, which is a dramatic change from the computer-based presentations in the past, explained San Diego, Calif., native, 1st Sgt. Eugene Kuban, HSC first sergeant.
"The training brought discussions, which is always what we want to get out of training. People have different thoughts on and approaches to how they would handle situations, and this type of training brings them together and encourages discussion," he said.
When Kuban joined the Army 17 years ago, the problem of sexual misconduct in the military wasn't nearly as big as it is today but, in retrospect, the force wasn't as big either, he noted.
"As a senior (noncommissioned officer), as a soldier, I will not tolerate it," Kuban said. "It affects everything. It affects soldiers. It affects the unit. It affects combat readiness."
Traditionally, the Army conducts "stand-down" days, where soldiers take a break from their daily duties to attend additional training on safety, suicide prevention, or sexual harassment and assault. However, Lanza preferred to call the day a SHARP "stand-up" day because, he said, soldiers need to stand up to and address the issue of sexual misconduct within the force.
"Today is a day to really reaffirm the values that underpin us as a military, as an institution, really reaffirm the climate of trust that we want to have in our organization. We're training our soldiers in what they need to be doing to take care of each other," he said.