FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- In the face of what seems like a tsunami of sexual harassment and assault cases sweeping through the military, and some rather close to home, the Wildcats of the 81st Regional Support Command are fighting through the waves with Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training.
Popular opinion, among both military and civilians, seems to be that the fear of the consequences is not an effective deterrent to the actions, partly because the consequences are not witnessed by many and partly because they are perceived as not implemented.
"Briefing the consequences may work for the younger, new Soldiers," said Staff Sgt. Brent Harmening, a medic with the 81st. "But the older ones have learned they can get away with the stuff they're doing."
"I think the consequences need to be harsher at a lower level," said Ms. Kelley Greene, 81st RSC unit administrator. "Many people never see the consequences so they don't care about them."
The consequences themselves have taken on less of a role in training briefings, making way for the emphasis on the responsibility each Soldier has to take care of his or her fellow Soldier. As the Soldier's Creed states "I Will Never Leave a Fallen Comrade," the concept is not only meant for combat operations. Soldiers are charged to protect their buddies during peacetime, on and off their home bases, even it means from themselves.
According to the Army website, "The Army's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program exists so the Army can prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults before they occur. Our goal is to eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assaults by creating a climate that respects the dignity of every member of the Army Family."
Part of prevention is to make sure our fellow troops don't make bad decisions that often involve overindulgence in alcohol or a past environment that had allowed or even expected inappropriate behavior.
"We need to make it a part of our [Army] culture," said Ms. Fatima Pittman, a civilian with the 81st. "It's got to be more than just check-the-block training."
The I. A.M. Strong campaign attempts to get all the Soldiers involved in preventing sexual assaults rather than ignoring the warning signs or turning a blind eye to actions they know are inappropriate. The acronym stands for Intervene, Act and Motivate. By making Soldiers aware, they know what right looks like. They also learn what wrong looks like and are given the skills to combat it.
At the 81st, the Soldiers and employees are excited to put the lessons into practice due, in part, to the backing of the senior leadership. "This is the first unit where the CG was actually engaged in the training," said Capt. Maria Marrero, referring to 81st RSC commander Maj. Gen. Gill Beck. "And he stood up and said, 'This is the standard, and this is what I expect.'"
"Maj. Gen. Beck gets it," said Ms. Emily Perry, Chief of the 81st Programs and Services Division. "He knows how all this training, [including resilience, alcohol and drug abuse prevention and SHARP] is under the same umbrella and he is behind the proactive, preventive efforts."
For more information visit http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/