By Patrick BuffettSeptember 26, 2013
FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 26, 2013) -- The concept is simple.
Ditch the dry speeches and static PowerPoint slides, and use role players, open dialogue and candy rewards to encourage audience participation.
"What we've seen as a result is more Soldiers paying attention to the message the Army wants them to hear," said Sgt. 1st Class Tamara Drury, the Sexual Harassment or Assault Response and Prevention Program coordinator for the 16th Ordnance Battalion at Fort Lee. "To eliminate sexual crimes from our ranks, Soldiers need to visualize the problem … how it can happen to anyone and the effect it can have on the victim. It has to be viewed from a personal perspective, and I believe interactive training is the best way to accomplish that."
Drury launched the battalion's latest SHARP training program in May. The classes are conducted at 5 a.m. each Wednesday and everyone in the organization, to include all newly arriving advanced individual training students, is required to attend a session.
There is nothing particularly unique about the content of the 16th OD Bn. classes. Facilitated discussion and role playing scenarios are now fairly common in the Army SHARP and suicide awareness training arenas. Drury -- and Capt. Robert Lobdell, the commander of Alpha Company, 16th OD Bn., to which she is assigned -- want to emphasize the success they've experienced with the training.
"I think a lot of the participants show up assuming it's going to be the same old thing, and you can usually hear the groans and sighs when that first PowerPoint slide goes up on the screen," Lobdell wrote in a message to the Traveller. "Then she starts asking questions about the SHARP program; and anyone who provides a correct answer gets a piece of candy. It doesn't take long before you see a lot of hands shooting up in the air."
Using the seven Army values as talking points, the SHARP trainers explain how sexual harassment and assault erode the military's reputation and damage unit morale. That discussion, Lobdell noted, is punctuated by victim demographics that show the diversity of ranks, ages, genders and locations of where the incidents took place.
"After a brief Q and A with the students, volunteer role players act out scenes that reinforce the topics that were discussed," Lobdell wrote. "It starts with inappropriate remarks and escalates to a scene that shows how the life of the offender and the victim is affected. The class is totally involved at that point … watching these incidents unfold is pretty insightful."
"I think it reaches a much more personal level," Drury said, "and that really is the key. The unfortunate reality is that people tend to shut down and lose focus when the training is boring and or doesn't seem like it pertains to them. By having interactive instruction with the Soldiers, we allow them to be engaged and contribute to the training, which I believe is more effective."
It's the sort of training that also takes Soldiers "out of their comfort zone," Drury continued.
"They're working this out in front of their peers -- how they would react, how they would intervene," she said. "It's a good opportunity to identify what works and what beliefs need to change. Along the way, we equip Soldiers with the confidence and know-how to intervene when they witness inappropriate conduct. We show them what we are expecting from them. We also shed light on the dilemma of some people assuming this is 'not their business.' The message that should hit home is that it is your business because you are in the Army, and that kind of conduct is not professional and does not belong in our ranks."
She credits Lt. Col. Steven Carozza and Command Sgt. Maj. Cheryl Greene, the battalion's top two leaders, for giving her plenty of leeway as she steered the training from drab to dramatic. Drury said she is proud of the team effort (Sgt. 1st Class Stacey Barrett and Sgt. 1st Class Kenny Smith are also supporting SHARP representatives) that has kept the class on track for the past four months and the response by unit personnel who have attended the training.
"I think we've come a long way since that first class back in May," she concluded. "Back then, we asked where sexual harassment might happen and were surprised by the many responses that included places where it was happening whenever company leaders weren't around. Now, we ask the same question and it's more along the lines of where it could happen. We're also noticing more junior Soldiers stepping forward and saying something if they witness an inappropriate act. They're feeling that confidence to report it and not look the other way. That's a clear mark of success."