"Combating sexual assault and harassment within the ranks is our number one priority," said Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff.

The 214th Fires Brigade took Odierno's words and turned them into an all-day event June 20, providing Soldiers to focus on the Army's top priority.

The brigade began planning the stand down day to stand up to sexual harassment months ago, before the Army's requirement for Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) classes were to be given June 25. The day started at Grierson Hill Chapel and moved to other locations throughout Fort Sill.

"We need to get to the root of the issues and make sure that SHARP is not only understood by all of us, but that it is also enforced by all of us," said Maj. Damon Wells, 214th FiB deputy commander. "Stopping sexual harassment and assault is now the number one priority for the Army, and it is now the number one priority for us within the brigade."

The brigade started the day off with an overview of the SHARP program, reminding members of the staff that are dedicated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be available to help anyone who needs assistance. Wells, along with Sgt. 1st Class Nicolas Raso, the brigade sexual assault response coordinator, led the discussion.

"It's not very often that we have the opportunity to have 100 percent of our Soldiers able to hear the same brief, but today we accomplished our goal of reminding everyone, from private to colonel, that the military is extremely serious about SHARP," said Raso. "We are making a cultural change when it comes to sexual harassment and assault within the ranks."

Topics discussed ranged from providing a climate where Soldiers treat each other with respect to how to stop harassment immediately, and to the steps to take if a report needs to be filed.

When asked if everyone understood what the different types of SHARP reports represented, everyone said they knew, however a quick survey of answers proved that there were misconceptions that Wells and Raso then cleared up.

"The key to solving this problem is leadership. Leaders will create a climate free of harassment and assault by setting and enforcing standards and discipline just like we are doing today. Today's SHARP stand down day will remind everyone that our values, standards and discipline must be consistent with the profession of arms, and we will accept nothing less," said Wells.

"It doesn't matter how good you are at your job if you turn around and harass somebody. Our profession demands leaders with high competence and character, not just one or the other," he said.

Following the large group discussion, small teams discussed the program more intimately with victim advocates.

This allowed the advocates to meet and establish relationships with Soldiers who may someday need to report something to them.

During the training, Wells expressed the urgency for commanders and leaders at all levels to aggressively tackle any issues of sexual assault or sexual harassment within their ranks.

"With today's statistics on SHARP issues a focal point in the media, parents are scared to send their children into the military. Would any of you want to send your son or daughter off to a job where there is even a minimal chance that they could be sexually harassed or assaulted? I know I wouldn't," Wells said. "We can solve it. We are doing a pretty good job, but we still can be better, and it starts with everyone in this room. If you see it and don't report it, you're in the wrong also."

The day turned out to be a success as the brigade was fully trained and cleared up all misconceptions about the SHARP program. Brigade members learned and grew as a group to stand up against such an important issue.

"Today was very thought provoking and the discussion leaders really kept us engaged. With statistics so high, it is very probable that someone here could be a victim and now we all know how to prevent, report and stop sexual assault or harassment in the brigade," said Capt. David Beck.

Page last updated Thu June 27th, 2013 at 00:00