Effective SHARP training for USACE personnel
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Pentagon officials released a report May 15 that says just under 1,400 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the military last year. The report states of the 1,366 cases reported, 59 percent were substantiated.

It is the Army's policy to use training, education, and awareness to prevent sexual harassment/assault; promote sensitive handling of victims; offer victim assistance and counseling; and provide timely and thorough investigation of all reported incidents.

It is also the policy of the Army and the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville that sexual harassment/assault is unacceptable conduct and will not be condoned or tolerated.

"Sexual harassment/assault is a serious crime that has no place at the Huntsville Center," said Huntsville Center Commander Col. Robert Ruch. "It degrades mission readiness devastates teamwork. It's not compatible with Army values and it's punishable under the law."

There is an Army requirement for annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) refresher training presented in a face-to-face setting, and from May 12-16, Huntsville Center employees received their SHARP training. However, for instructors conducting the training, it's not always easy to connect with the audience.

One sentence brings the need for training home for Huntsville Center employees: There are cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said Kwana Anthony, USACE South Atlantic Division (SAD) Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC).

She said that one sentence usually gets the attention she needs to effectively conduct her training.

"This (SHARP) is a top priority for officials at all levels -- from the president on down the chain of command," Anthony said. "Zero tolerance. Acts of sexual harassment or sexual assault will not be tolerated within the Army, whether Soldier or civilian."

The SHARP Program's mission is to reduce, with an aim toward eliminating, sexual offenses within the Army. SHARP training is focused on awareness and prevention.

Anthony said USACE employees sometimes feel the training is superfluous since 98 percent USACE's 33,700 employees are Army civilians who are rarely physically located on military installations and may have very little contact with Soldiers or the military lifestyle.

"Sometimes it's a challenge to equate training built for Soldiers and the civilian workforce to the Corps workforce," Anthony said. "That's why I have to work extra hard to relate the program to them and get buy-in. To do that takes a lot of interaction, and that's what I'm going to get."

Anthony is a 21-year retired Army noncommissioned officer who spent her last five years of service working in Equal Employment Opportunity offices working sexual harassment and sexual assault issues, and she has learned there are ways to get through to the crowd.

"Engagement," Anthony said. "This course is designed for interaction, so it makes it easy to allow employees to open up and ask questions and become active (in the course) and speak up."

During the training sessions it was apparent that some in the audience weren't too comfortable with the material, and Anthony has to be direct with her engagement, often picking individuals in the crowd to answer specific questions. She said that's one of the best tools she has to get people involved and get that buy-in.

Jonathan Stephens, Utility Monitoring and Control Systems project engineer, admits the material conveyed in SHARP training is uncomfortable. However, he said he understands it's pertinent to the training.

"She engaged us and got feedback so she's definitely an effective instructor," he said. "She got the point across. "