GRAFENWOEHR, Germany (Aug. 26, 2013) -- Soldiers competing in U.S. Army Europe's 2013 Best Warrior Competition participated in a Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention lane here, Aug. 20, to demonstrate their knowledge and skill in preventing sexual harassment and assisting persons affected by sexual assault.
The competitors also demonstrated steps to intervene, prevent and respond to sexual harassment when it occurs in their units.
The U.S. Army Europe, or USAREUR, Best Warrior Competition is a week-long event that tests Soldiers' physical stamina, leadership, technical knowledge and skill. The competitors represent the best in their units and exemplify the USAREUR imperatives of teamwork, comprehensive fitness, leader development, training, discipline and standards. Winners in the Soldier and Noncommissioned Officer categories of the USAREUR competition will go on to compete at the Department of the Army-level competition held in October at Fort Lee, Va.
"Sexual assault and harassment degrades the fabric that is a unit, it damages not only the individuals involved but also anybody who knows someone involved," said Staff Sgt. David Foster, a Satellite Communications System Operator with the 52nd Signal Battalion and competitor in the event. "It takes away from the ability to get anything done, you can't keep having to look over your shoulder if you have a job to do."
The lane put each competitor a unit leadership position, where a Soldier approached them the morning after an incident where they felt they were sexual assaulted. They then had to experience first hand the steps to take when such an incident occurs in their unit.
Speaking about his role as a non-commissioned officer, or NCO, Foster said that NCOs are leaders and they must set an example.
"We train, lead, mentor and take Soldiers to the fight, and the only way we can do that is if we have their complete trust," he said. "As leaders, our job is to recognize it, and to get involved directly and to make sure that anyone involved in any of these scenarios is taken care of because that is our primary responsibility."
The lane gave every competitor a look into what happens during a sexual harassment or assault incident. Regardless of rank or duty position every competitor took something away from the training.
Spc. Ricky Barnes, an Information Technology Specialist with 7th Signal Brigade gave his thoughts on how this affects a unit.
"This affects the military in every aspect, especially when it comes to the Army Values and the morale that you would expect with your unit," said Barnes. "If it happens to one it happens to everyone."
Barnes said he sees his role as being a "battle buddy" to his peers and a voice to his leaders if he sees something.
"I feel more prepared about what I can do to help out a battle buddy and get them where they need to be," said Barnes after completing the event.
Second Lt. Beau Benton, a Military Police Officer with 21st Theater Sustainment Command, was reminded that sexual harassment and assault prevention starts with all service members, and begins at the lowest level.
"The first thing we can do to change this is to change the mindset and the stereotypes associated with this, that's the most important," he said.
Benton said the SHARP lane at the competition was intense, "in your face" and eye-opening. He said it was a good training tool he can take back and use to train his Soldiers.
"Sexual harassment and assault are a huge violation of trust and an integrity violation," he said. "It goes against our Army Values and the core principles of the Army.
Check out all the Best Warrior competition action on the Best Warrior microsite at www.eur.army.mil/BestWarrior.
Learn more about SHARP awareness, education and prevention efforts at USAREUR at www.eur.army.mil/SHARP.