FORT BENNING, Ga., (Aug. 14, 2013) -- Leaders across the Maneuver Center of Excellence will hear presentations from retired Army Criminal Investigation Command special agent Russell Strand on sexual assault and harassment awareness training Aug. 19 at McGinnis-Wickam Hall.

Strand is chief of the U.S. Army Military Police School Behavioral Sciences Education and Training Division. He has more than 30 years of law enforcement, investigative and consultation experience. He said his expertise and training includes domestic violence intervention, critical incident peer support and sexual assault, trafficking in persons and child abuse investigations.

Strand will present two sessions for brigade, battalion, and company command teams about achieving cultural change to eliminate sexual harassment and assaults in every rank.

"The purpose of this is to educate and is designed for senior leaders but suitable for all leaders," he said.

"We're trying to create a cultural change down to the junior level, but we also have to create an impact at the peer level."

Strand said the key to changing the culture is changing the mindsets and beliefs about sexual assault that allow offenders to prey on victims undetected.

"This is an insider threat where the people who gain the most trust within the system can cause the most damage," he said. "The first part of the presentation is about how difficult it is to identify sexual offenders and those who prey on our Soldiers."

Strand said he encourages leaders to view sexual assault awareness training in a similar view to combat training because of the physical, emotional and mental effects on Soldiers, their peers and Families.

"We will talk about how (offenders) go about selecting their victims and we add in a lot of information about victim impact, what this does to victims and how potentially devastating it is," Strand said. "We have casualties on our hand, and the sexual casualties are often more traumatizing than those in combat."

Strand said the Army has seen positive changes in the number of reported incidents and the feedback among senior leaders across installations who want to make the war against sexual assault a top priority.

"I believe Congress and the American people are looking to us to change our subculture and make a difference," Strand said. "There's no other place in history where this is the Army's number one priority. During a time of war, focusing on something other than fighting a war displays a huge message."