SARC of Year takes on zero tolerance as life's mission
April 13, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, April 11, 2011) -- A noncommissioned officer who worked hard to eliminate sexual assault in Iraq will be recognized at the Pentagon, April 15.
Sgt. 1st Class Bryan K. Harrison, an Equal Opportunity Advisor of the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Ga., FORSCOM will be awarded as Sexual Assault Response Coordinator of the Year. He managed a program in Iraq last year that trained 3,200 Soldiers, organized a march with 2,400 participants and cordoned off dark billeting areas that had been abandoned due to the drawdown.
This is the third time the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office will recognize exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, or SARCs, with an awards ceremony and meeting with DoD senior leadership.
PRAISE FROM HIS LEADERS
"Sergeant first class Harrison's awareness of and concern for the commanders' zero-tolerance policy on sexual assault and harassment issues are reflected in his day-to-day performance and interactions with servicemembers, contractors and DA (Department of the Army) civilians. (His) polite demeanor has earned him respect, support and trust of both his peers and superiors," said Col. Thomas S. James Jr., chief of staff, 3rd Infantry Division, in his letter of recommendation.
"His bearing, technical proficiency, ability to make sound decisions and dedication to duty are consistently recognized by Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, family members, civilians, local and foreign nationals of the 3rd Infantry Division and Task Force Marne," James said in the same letter.
"Within the scope of his responsibilities, Sgt. 1st Class Harrison superbly set himself apart from other deployable SARCs," said his supervisor Lt. Col. Shatrece W. B. Buchanan, 3rd Infantry Division Equal Opportunity program manager in her letter of recommendation.
"He made a typical sexual assault program designed to address case procession, case management/prevention and single-handedly supported the division in developing and executing a stand-alone program, which eventually became sought out by numerous commands," Buchanan said in the same letter.
Deployed five times -- once to Somalia, two rotations to Bosnia, and three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, "Harrison has distinguished himself by making significant contributions to his country in promoting sexual assault as a combat multiplier for the sexual assault and harassment program, serving more than 26,000 personnel in garrison and while deployed in Iraq," reads his citation.
Harrison had a take-charge attitude, even in the face of having no knowledge of existing local response capabilities or resources, when his division reported to Contingency Operating Base Speicher, U.S. Division-North, in Iraq and they encountered their first real-time aggravated assault and suicide threat, Buchanan said in her rating of him.
"When it comes down to some things we did different," Harrison said, "we used the tools we received from the Department of the Army, but we approached a vulnerability assessment differently. (This assessment) is usually the way you think of how things are outside the Forward Operating Base -- what is it going to take for the enemy to get inside our perimeter," he said.
Harrison took that approach to inside the FOB by having units go out and do vulnerability assessments for sexual assault, such as in tent cities or bunkers that were now empty because of troop reduction.
"When we got (to Speicher), we knew that the mission was changing and we knew, based off the information we received from the previous unit, the 25th ID (Infantry Division), that we were doing a force reduction, so we started right off the bat with the vulnerability assessment.
"We didn't want to have a lot of areas where Soldiers were going to work or coming from work and passing through these deserted areas that were no longer well lit," Harrison said.
The SARCs worked with the region support groups, the Forward Operating Base and Contingency Operating Base mayors and had them systematically shut down all those areas. The tents were taken down and the bunkers moved, all as part of the unit's normal mission to reduce the U.S. force's footprint.
"We just helped them move a little bit faster. And during our sexual-assault review boards we established a pattern when the commander met with our commanding general, not only was it a case update on the victim and the perpetrators, but we had them talk about what was going well in their area and what wasn't going well in their area.
LEADERS LISTEN AND LEARN
Because of this, every month the commanders had to come up with something to make their area that much better for their Soldiers, he said.
"We talk about Intervene, Act and Motivate (I. A.M. Strong), so some units did carnivals, and some did fun runs. Every month was sexual assault month in Iraq, because units had to be pro-active in prevention. This was to keep them focused on taking care of their brothers and sisters," Harrison said.
Another idea he had, designed to develop trust in the SARCs who were there to help keep the peace between Soldiers, was to put up posters of himself and the other 15 deployable SARCS, or DSARCs.
"One of the MWR entertainment groups came over to Iraq and they had sexual-assault prevention posts displayed, everywhere I looked. So we expanded on this idea. When you took a plane from our COB to a FOB, as soon as you got inside the terminal there were our photos and information on how to reach us," Harrison said.
ABILITY TO CHANGE AND ADAPT
The SARCs also put together training and education tools and here's where Harrison proved himself as the core operator for the division's sexual-assault program. He influenced 3,200 participants to train with Catharsis Productions/Sex Signals, oversaw training for more than 15,000 contractors and singlehandedly certified more than 100 unit victim advocates, or UAVs, and 15 DSARCs over a period of 12 months, Buchanan said in her letter.
"We put together skits of sexual assault cases that actually happened in theater for training," Harrison said.
One skit involved how things can escalate from watching a movie with a friend to the person leaving for their own containerized housing unit after the movie is over and how this can lead up to sexual assault.
"During our UAV courses and our DSARC courses, we received training based on a garrison environment. So we took the environment we were in and modified some of the training scenarios," Harrison said.
The idea had immediate and positive reception.
TRUST MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
Before training, the team announced a disclaimer asking anyone who might be bothered by anything that comes up to let them know. A senior male officer removed himself from the training after remembering a suppressed childhood trauma.
"He came to me right when the show started and told me about his situation. We spoke briefly and I told him to tell his chain of command that he felt uncomfortable without going into any detail," he said.
Buchanan, though, tells more of the story in her letter of support. Harrison eased the officer's concern by arranging for behavioral health and chaplain support, arranged immediate intervention, mediation and training for the supervisor and other members of the chain of command to stave off future re-victimization.
This helped "a young male officer deal with repressed memories of an assault which occurred in the officer's childhood. These acts and many more compassionate acts of professionalism set Sgt. 1st Class Harrison apart and have significantly contributed to the positive reputation of the division," Buchanan said.
Other exceptional SARC awardees are Col. Mark Hickman, U.S. Marine Corps; Janice Logan, U.S. Navy; Valerie Cook, U.S. Air Force; Tiffani Collier, U.S. Coast Guard; and Senior Master Sgt. Kelly Wilkinson, National Guard Bureau.