ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Senior leaders of commands across the island gathered in Heritage Hall, April 8, to sign a proclamation affirming the month of April "Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month."

This year's Department of Defense theme is "Eliminate Sexual Assault: Know your Part; Do your Part." The Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Program (SHARP) is the Army's top priority, as directed by the Secretary of Defense.

Maj. Gen. Kevin O'Connell, commanding general, U.S. Army Sustainment command, was the guest speaker, and the first person to sign the proclamation during the ceremony.

"By signing this proclamation, we're recommitting our efforts to end sexual assault, give survivors the support they need to heal, and continue building a culture that never tolerates sexual violence," he said.

"When we come into the Army, or become DA civilians, we adhere to the Army values. Sexual harassment and sexual assault go against those Army values. We can't have bystanders letting things happen. We need to be active and engaged. Step in and assert yourself."

The proclamation states Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month is intended to draw attention to the fact that sexual assault is a crime that impacts mission readiness in the military community.

"It can affect anybody. It can affect the workforce, and have an impact on readiness," O'Connell said.

"So we really have to commit ourselves to solving this problem. We're really here to prevent sexual assault and maintain a climate where people come to work at a safe place. It needs to be confronted head-on."

Sgt. Maj. Bruce Williams, SHARP program manager, U.S. Army Materiel Command, emphasized the importance of good leadership, and how it supports the entire program.

"Young Soldiers emulate their leaders. They see a senior leader, walking the walk and talking the talk, and say 'Hey, I want to be like that person when I have that rank,' " he said. "When they see that leaders at the top of the chain are doing the right thing, positive effects are going to trickle down, and commitment to eliminating sexual crimes will be embedded at the lowest Soldier level.

"So, as they progress through the ranks, I think the Army culture is going to continue to improve even more than it has since I was a young Soldier."

The ceremony was organized by Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Watkins, sexual assault response coordinator, ASC, and included an invocation by First U.S. Army chaplain, Chaplain (Col.) Peter Mueller, and a performance of the national anthem by Sgt. 1st Class Cornelius Goodwin, operations NCOIC, ASC.