By Ms. Shayna E Brouker (IMCOM)April 22, 2014
WIESBADEN, Germany - Stand-up comedy, slapstick humor and a healthy dose of insightful information -- but no Power Point presentations -- made for an impactful Ready and Resilient Campaign event April 16. The stand-down focused on sexual harassment and assault and substance abuse prevention.
There was standing room only at the Wiesbaden Fitness Center as listeners heard remarks from Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander, were introduced to victim advocates and community resource representatives, participated in an obstacle course and enjoyed a performance by comedian Bernie McGrenahan.
"I know the listening audience might have some questions when we say the words 'fun' and 'sexual assault' in the same sentence," said David Carstens, explaining the unconventional event. "But we wanted to give Soldiers something to focus on and let them know we are an organization that takes care of one another."
Carstens opened with some stunning statistics gleaned from his monthly meetings as co-chair of the Sexual Assault Prevention Board -- which he called "the worst day of the month for me."
"The fact that we have one incident is one too many in my book," Carstens said. So far in FY14, there have been 10 reported sexual assaults at USAG Wiesbaden. It's estimated that only 25 percent are reported, so there are likely more. Younger Soldiers under 25 tend to be the target, and 90 percent of incidents involved alcohol.
Bystanders could have prevented 60 percent of incidents. And it isn't just a female Soldier issue -- 30 percent of incidents involve males.
"Events like this are not the solution -- you are. We are going to give you the tools to have an open and honest dialogue about sexual assault and bystander intervention."
Roland DeLeon, SHARP coordinator, highlighted the importance of getting consent.
"Our nation's leaders feel so strongly about consent that it is discussed in the Uniformed Code of Military Justice," he said. "If you don't expressly get consent, you don't have it."
DeLeon challenged audience members, single or married, to ask for consent and express gratitude for an act as simple as a hug to practice. He also mentioned the Bystander Intervention class offered that can give bystanders the tools to step in when needed.
"You don't have to do everything, but you have a duty to do something," he said.
Next, representatives from each of the tenant commands struggled through an obstacle course in a wheelchair wearing beer goggles. A battle buddy helped them breeze through. The message was clear: You can make a difference just by standing up and speaking up.
McGrenahan, who has performed on "The Today Show" and "Comedy Central," took the floor to share a few laughs as well as his personal story.
"Clay Kaserne Fitness Center … my career is on a rocket," he joked. "Do a good job here and they'll let me perform at the commissary."
McGrenahan went on to tell his heart-wrenching story, drawing laughs along the way. He confessed that he used to party a lot, beginning in the eighth grade.
"My ex-girlfriend used to get on my case. 'Bernie, that's your fourth beer,'" he imitated. "Honey, relax. Finish your breakfast."
But his drinking habits became no joking matter, progressing to a frequency of four nights in a week in high school and causing his grades to plummet from As and Bs to Ds. He lost his baseball scholarship but still managed to go to college, where his habits worsened. He eventually got two DUIs, was fired from his job and had to move home with his mother to make ends meet.
But it took his younger brother Scott killing himself and a third DUI for McGrenahan to face his drinking problem, get treatment and stay sober. He hasn't touched a drink in 26 years. He's happily married and loving his career entertaining troops and civilians alike, he said.
"My life is completely different today. My life is amazing," he remarked. "I've never had to apologize for something I've said drunk in 26 years."
"I'm not the no-drink guy. I am telling you to respect alcohol," he said. "It's the No. 1 killer in the world; it kills five times more people than drugs."
But for the 10 percent of those who can't drink alcohol responsibly, abstinence is the only answer, he said. He encouraged anyone struggling with a problem to reach out to resources available -- because "they are not the enemy, they're the friend."
Carstens closed by introducing representatives from each of the "Swiss Army knife of services" available to service members and their families: the chaplaincy, Criminal Investigation Division, Medical and Behavioral Health, the Legal Office, ASAP, SHARP and Equal Employment Opportunity. Representatives explained what they do and how they can help.
He then presented a plaque to McGranahan in gratitude for his story and service.
"You may be only 5'6", but for telling your personal story you're 10 feet tall," he said.
"I enjoyed myself. My face was literally hurting. I think he got to the audience," said Sgt. 1st Class Katyla Hills, victim advocate and platoon sergeant for U.S. Army Europe Headquarters and Headquarters Company. "And it was a good opportunity for victim advocates so people can actually know who we are and see our faces."
Carstens closed by mentioning the effort to expand the 66th Military Intelligence Brigade's mentorship program to the community.
Choose your unit's best to serve as victim advocates, and you can make a difference, he said.