By Staff Sgt. Aaron KnowlesJune 19, 2014
FORT STEWART, Ga. -- As the sun broke the horizon, the Soldiers of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 42nd Fires Brigade were already in formation.
Today's formation time was earlier than usual for them.
This day would be like few others; for it was a call to arms. They were preparing for a long day of training for combat.
Wearing their physical training uniforms, the Soldiers stood in formation waiting for guidance on what was in store for them.
The combat they were preparing for wasn't against their normal idea of an opponent, but against a specific crime itself.
This crime, which sneaks up and destroys from within the ranks of the Army, has a name, but rarely its face is of those that Soldiers least expect.
The Soldiers of the 42nd Fires Brigade conducted a sexual harassment/assault response and prevention stand-down day, June 11.
The stand down, led by senior non commissioned officers of the HHB, 42nd FiB, was aimed at educating Soldiers about the damage that occurs during and after a sexual assault or harassment incident, as well as the environment that allows for these crimes to occur.
"It's not just about rape, SHARP is about what you do and what you say around people," said Specialist Lonnie Herndon, a native of Los Angeles, and a Fires Support Operator with HHB, 42nd FiB. "It's about the process of what leads to potential rape. It's about preventing the environment."
The 42nd FiB's stand-down day was completely focused and revolved around SHARP. Even the physical training session, located at Donovan Field, was created around teaching lessons about SHARP.
Sgt. 1st Class Belinda Eason, a native of Jacksonville, Ga., and the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for 42nd FiB, 3rd ID, developed the special cross fit plan that was implemented that morning.
"We call it the Soldiers against Sexual Harassment and Assault: Challenge for Change," said Eason.
"The meaning behind the challenge was that every Soldier needs to challenge them self to change how sexual assault and sexual harassment affects their workplace," Eason said. "Each Soldier has a responsibility to stop it at their level. Stop the innuendos and the side remarks or candid remarks. If you hear it, stop it. That's the challenge."
Another challenge during the event was that 3rd Battalion, 69th Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, and Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 41st Field Artillery Regiment, and 3rd Sustainment Brigade all sent teams to participate in the SHARP PT.
According to Eason, each numerical value within the workout stood for a specific statistic that was connected to sexual assault. An example of the values is each station's specific task lasted three minutes which referred to the fact that victims of sexual crimes are three times more likely to develop depression.
"The PT session was a good way to get Soldiers actively engaged in the reason for being there," Herndon said.
Following the PT session, Soldiers from the HHB, 42nd FiB were split into their individual platoons and sent to a designated training area within the 42nd FiB foot print for training.
Fortunately, for all of the Wheel Horse Soldiers, this was not the usual "death by PowerPoint" training.
"It was more interactive," Herndon said. "Soldiers were able to put in their opinion. We had a good teacher who explained everything and I actually learned a few things. It was something other than the same old 'no means no' training."
According to Col. John O'Grady, the brigade commander for 42nd FiB, 3rd ID, the alternative method of training was a great way to demonstrate how a topic that is normally taught in a classroom setting can be applied and taught in a whole new environment to keep Soldiers involved.
Throughout the classroom portion of the stand down, Soldiers were shown videos of male and female Soldiers speaking out on incidents of sexual assault.
Once the videos were complete, all Soldiers were given the opportunity to discuss it in a relaxed environment.
Leaders of all levels were actively involved and picked the brains of Soldiers of all ranks to see how SHARP incidences are being seen at the lower levels.
"The purpose is to get the Soldiers thinking," Eason said. "It takes an individual to start the change and to not be a passive bystander. Not just with sexual assault and harassment but anything that could be dangerous."
The training and videos included many key words that included "professional" and "leaders," and it was obviously picked up by the Soldiers as they addressed how it affected them and how they would react as leaders.
"I know that I am a professional Soldier," Herndon said. "You have to be mindful when you are speaking. In order to change the environment, I may need to approach a battle buddy and say, 'bro, you can't say that.'"
At the end of the stand down, the winners of the morning's SHARP pt session were announced at a formation.
The 3-69 AR, 1st BCT, 3rd ID, won all three categories of best male, best female, and best team, but it was reinforced that everyone who grew from the training had won a small battle.
"It would be my hope for these Soldiers to walk away from this day knowing it has to start with them and that they have the power to make a change," Eason said.