FORT KNOX, Ky. (Dec. 9, 2013) Like many students at the University of Texas, Austin, Army ROTC Cadets dressed up for Halloween. However, their destination was not an on-campus party but for an alternative way to learn about a topic that is serious to the Army.
They were visiting different agencies on and off campus that offer places of safety, counseling and education for all Cadets. This training focused on getting educated about the Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, program.
So, what does dressing up for Halloween have to do with interactive learning?
The answer, if you talk to Col. James Dodson, commander, 5th Brigade, U.S. Army Cadet Command, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is a fun learning environment and a better educated ROTC Cadet.
"We're always trying to find creative ways to teach and inform our staff, cadre and Cadets so they truly understand the SHARP message we're trying to relate," Dodson said.
"We're trying to move away from the slide brief that only checks the block and does not evaluate true understanding," Dodson added. "It's important that staff and Cadets truly understand the material for sexual assault/harassment to be prevented."
Set up like an urban orienteering course, the 90-minute lab took Cadets to different agencies on and off campus that offer places of safety, counseling and education for all Cadets.
Educating staff, cadre and Cadets about SHARP is part of USACC's vision to create an environment free of sexual harassment and sexual assault, according to USACC's SHARP campaign plan. The campaign, which nests with requirements from U.S. Training and Doctrine Command and Department of the Army, focuses on creating an environment "where each individual in the USACC team is valued and protected; and fully prepared to execute the USACC mission."
The SHARP program traces its start to back to 2008 with the creation of the Army-wide "I. A.M. (Intervene-Act-Motivate) Strong" sexual harassment/assault campaign. With such a campaign comes the need to create training materials and events, such as the urban orienteering lab at UT, Austin.
As the lab progressed, Cadets, working in squads, received a list of clues and an answer sheet to complete. Clues hinted to a specific location Cadets had to travel to on foot. As a group they had to decipher clues and develop race strategies. Answer sheets contained words or phrases associated with SHARP or suicide prevention. Every destination related to sexual assault/harassment prevention, suicide prevention, counseling, and safety resources available to Cadets.
At each destination, Cadets received a few scrambled letters related to the phrases on their answer sheets, requiring Cadets to use more problem-solving while unscrambling them to get the right answer. The first squad back with a correct answer sheet won.
During the lab, each Cadet visited the following locations to learn about offered services:
-- Student Services Building: provides counseling resource/provides mental health services.
-- School of Social Works: provides higher learning education on sexual abuse/assault.
-- University Catholic Center: provides counseling.
-- University Christian Center: provides counseling.
-- Campus Police Station: provides a safe location and emergency resource.
-- St. David's hospital: provides the closest emergency room/safe place.
-- Campus library: provides education/safe location.
These future leaders are developing research skills now that they'll draw on later in their careers.
"We need to know what types of resources are available," said Cadet Promise Maino, a junior majoring in Middle Eastern language and culture. "Someday, we'll be responsible for Soldiers, either as a platoon leader or commander. We'll need to know how to help our Soldiers."
Maino said that going through this interactive lab would assist her and other Cadets in remembering types of available resources.
"Interactivity gets us involved in learning," she said.
Cadet Allegra Boutch echoed Maino's preference for interactive learning. Boutch, a senior majoring in rhetoric and writing at UT, Austin, said interactive learning will help them retain the information. "It's important to know resources and who to contact."
Creative ways of teaching includes UT, Austin's urban orienteering, along with sessions of open discussions where victim advocates or sexual assault response coordinators serve as facilitators during sexual assault prevention training labs. This kind of innovative thinking and teaching is what USACC is encouraging in its staff as it raises the bar for Cadet education in the coming years.
At the headquarters level, USACC's training materials includes online SHARP training located at NFORMED.NET. Overseen by USACC's Curriculum Development Division (G-3), these training courses are mandatory for all Military Science freshman and Military Science senior Cadets.
Military Science freshman Cadets are introduced to basic-level video modules such as "Unless There is Consent, it is Sexual Assault," and "Dating Violence and Stalking." Military Science senior Cadets work through advanced-level modules such as "Preventing Sexual Assault" and "Talking to Soldiers about Sexual Assault."
NFORMED.NET reported that before the training, 89 percent of Cadets identified sexual assault as a moderate or big problem on college campuses. Also, 74 percent of Cadets identified similar problem in the Army. More than 84 percent of Cadets reported the belief that sexual assault undermines Army values and 88 percent believed that sexual harassment did as well.
All Cadets take a pre-test and a post-test. During the fall of 2012, according to an NFORMED.NET report, 43 percent of Military Science freshman Cadets failed with a grade of 62 (D-). However, after completing the training and prior to any retakes, ninety-eight percent passed the post-test, of whom 88 percent earned an A or B. The average grade was a 90 (A-).
Military Science senior Cadets show similar improvement between pre-test and post-test scores. In June 2013, NFORMED.NET reported that Military Science senior Cadets scored a 63 (D) average on the pre-test; only 13 percent earned a B or better. Post-test results show more than 70 percent of Cadets scoring an 83 (B) average. Nearly one-third earned an A.
"By introducing SHARP training early on, we are planting the seed of a new culture," Dodson said. "As the future leaders of our Army, ROTC Cadets have the power to introduce change. We are also instilling the values early in the Cadets' careers, assisting the overall Army's goal to prevent and eliminate sexual harassment and sexual assault as well as changing the culture."
Lt. Col. Travis Habhab, professor of military science at UT, Austin, who, along with his staff, brainstormed the urban orienteering lab, agreed. He said that SHARP training early in the Cadets' schooling is a must, ensuring that these future leaders can establish a positive environment that prevents and will not tolerate sexual harassment or sexual assault.
"Also, good training will foster an environment that ensures Cadets can report potential issues and enable Cadets to receive any medical and/or behavioral health assistance that may be required and helpful," Habhab said.