By Sgt. 1st Class Howard ReedJuly 11, 2013
CAMP SHIELDS, Japan- "You can succeed from this day forward in virtually every aspect of your military career, but if you fail at this, and that is leading on the issue of sexual assault, you've failed the Army."
Those are the words of Secretary of the Army John McHugh who expressed concerns to Army senior leaders about the issue of sexual harassment and assault that's ripping the fabric of the today's Army.
To help defeat sexual harassment and assault more than 20 soldiers and civilians participated in a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention course from July 8-19 at Camp Shield's Chapel Training Center.
Patrick Stevenson, SHARP course trainer, explained participants get a wealth of information to go out and impact the command climate to help fight the war on sexual harassment and assault in the Army.
"I've been a trainer about two years now," said Stevenson. "The material or content has changed a few times but it's progressed for the better of the soldiers and civilians taking the course," said Stevenson.
The SHARP course, a two week instructional course, gives participants basic guidelines on how to operate and function as unit victim advocates or SHARP representatives for their units. In addition to the training all SHARP or unit victim advocate representatives receive, every individual is screened by the unit prior to attending the course to ensure the appointee is the best candidate and can handle the responsibilities that come with helping victims of sexual harassment and assault.
The intent of the Army's SHARP program is to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults before they occur with the goal of eliminating sexual harassment and assaults by creating a command climate that respects every member of the Army.
Army leaders view the course as an integral step to helping defeat sexual harassment and assault which has brought negative stigmatism at all levels of the Department of Defense recently.
Soldiers in the course do feel a sense of responsibility in knowing that sexual assault is a direct threat to the Army, its values and culture.
Sgt. 1st Class Raul Otero, a human resources noncommissioned officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery, said it was during unit SHARP training he felt compelled to get involved to make a difference.
"After going through several SHARP training classes and watching the documentary 'Invisible War,' I felt more educated and wanted to get involved to help in any way I could," said Otero.
Otero said he agrees with Army leaders who voiced their concerns and made known leader involvement is necessary to defeat SHARP issues.
"It's important to make a difference not only as an individual, but as a leader and by interacting and having face to face communication with soldiers is the key," explained Otero.
The Army continues to face the battle with sexual harassment and sexual assault head on by taking responsibility for the good, bad and ugly of related incidents. According to the Stars and Stripes recent article the Pentagon saw a jump in sexual abuse incidents from 19,000 in 2010 to 26,000 in 2012.
Stevenson said he feels good about the Army's chances of getting ahead of the issues and his goal as a trainer is to motivate course participants to go out and impact their units and the Army one Soldier at a time.
"What we're doing with the course is putting more water on the fire," said Stevenson. "The more education and leader involvement we have represents even more water to put out that fire and it gives us an opportunity to win the SHARP battle," explained Stevenson.
To find out more about the Army's SHARP program and learn how to get involved log on to: http://www.sexualassault.army.mil/