McDonald challenges commanders, leaders to end sexual assault
June 27, 2013
In preparation for the Armywide Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Stand-Down June 25, Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill commanding general, issued a commander's call for all command teams: battalion, brigade and above at Fort Sill.
The focus was on one of the most troubling issues facing the military today - sexual harassment and sexual assault.
"Sexual assault and harassment are contrary to Army Values and we are committed to eliminating it from within our ranks. This conduct is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated," McDonald said.
"The chief of staff of the Army has said that preventing sexual harassment and assaults is our number one priority and I guarantee you, we are going to figure out how to stop these incidents from happening," he said.
McDonald told the commanders, senior civilians and noncommissioned officers gathered June 14 at the Fort Sill Patriot Club that his purpose was to get them fired up about the seriousness of the issue. He also wanted to get them involved in planning and preparing their units to fix the problem of sexual assault.
"As leaders, both military and civilian, we are responsible for creating and maintaining an environment free from these kinds of threats of sexual violence. All leaders at Fort Sill will be held accountable to ensure respect, safety and dignity in their workplaces, and enforcing a policy of no tolerance regarding sexual harassment and sexual assault," McDonald said.
The commanders and leaders assembled viewed a video message from Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff.
"As women take on a greater role in the Army, it will become more important that we create an environment where they are safe as they perform their missions. I realize that there are men who are sexually assaulted, too, but the bottom line is that we need to create an environment where we don't tolerate sexual assault. I will tell you, from the things I see, we still have people out there who tolerate sexual assault and sexual harassment. Until we solve that problem, it's going to get worse," Odierno said.
Leaders were given five imperatives that will soon be implemented at every level of the Army to combat sexual assault and sexual harassment:
Prevent Prevent potential offenders from committing sexual crimes, provide compassionate care for victims, and protect the rights and privacy of survivors.
Investigate Army Criminal Investigation Command will thoroughly and professionally investigate all allegations of sexual harassment/assault and take action where appropriate.
Positive climate Develop a positive climate of trust and respect for every person in the Army.
Enforce accountability Hold every individual, unit, commander and organization accountable for the behavior.
Fully engage chain of command The chain of command will be fully engaged and at the center of the solutions to combat sexual harassment and assaults. The trust of our Soldiers must be restored.
McDonald emphasized that Fort Sill is making the following changes to combat the number of sexual assault and harassment incidents and promote an environment of safety, mutual respect and professionalism at Fort Sill. The installation will undergo a long-term, three-phased approach to this new mission:
Phase 1: Units will conduct an active review of credentials and qualifications of currently serving SHARP representatives, drill sergeants and platoon sergeants to ensure they meet applicable selection criteria and standards of conduct. Leaders and screening officials will inspect records to ensure proper completion under current Army standards and identify/correct errors.
Commanders and civilian supervisors will give refresher training to these same individuals. It will address the duties and responsibilities of each position; leadership and professional ethics; the application of Army Values and how they relate to the prevention and response to sexual harassment and sexual assault; and examples of how sexual harassment and sexual assault degrade Army readiness and cohesion.
Training will be interactive and discussion-based. Leaders will also coordinate engagements with their SHARP personnel to ensure all required topics are covered.
Phase 2: Expand broadened screening and implement behavioral health interviews with all SHARP personnel.
Phase 3: Update policy; establish workgroups and lessons learned analysis; and provide guidance on frequency of re-screening requirements.
More immediate efforts will include:
-- A stand-down training period by June 25 for all military and civilian personnel on post. The training will communicate that inappropriate behavior and sexual harassment/assault will not be condoned or tolerated at Fort Sill. In addition, people who observe behaviors or inappropriate actions must not ignore them.
-- Expansion of the Fort Sill 24-hour sexual assault hotline (580-917-4277). People may see or hear things that could be inappropriate, but don't know what to do. They can call and report an incident to fully trained victim advocates who answer the hotline. They can also get information about SHARP and Army policies, or ask how they should respond or intervene in situations.
-- Training 250 Soldiers and civilians to serve as victim advocates. This will provide one advocate for nearly every company, battery or directorate. Victim advocates will not only be responsible for crisis intervention and victim care, but also train personnel within their unit, monitor the unit climate, and ensure conduct standards are enforced and advise their commanders about policies regarding sexual assault and harassment.
-- Annual three-hour interactive training on response and prevention of sexual harassment/assault. Completion of this training will be mandatory for all Soldiers, leaders and government civilians. The training explains reporting options, how to recognize inappropriate behavior and techniques for intervening to prevent sexual assault. Everyone will also be required to complete an interactive online role-playing event called "Team Bound" which simulates scenarios where individuals will have opportunities to prevent sexual assault and must respond properly.
"This training will provide immediate feedback to let people know whether they did right or wrong, and how they could have done better," said McDonald.
Fort Sill leaders will continue to speak to Soldiers, civilians, contractors and officers through unit commanders' calls and convey the general's message that those who sexually harass or assault others will be caught and punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
"Everyone will be held accountable. Rank or position does not matter if someone sexually harasses or assaults another person," said McDonald. "As Army professionals, we are all accountable to the standards published in the UCMJ, and everyone will be treated the same."