By Mrs. Martha Yoshida (Leonard Wood)May 7, 2015
Army leaders at every level are working to establish command climates of trust and accountability and are joining with Soldiers across the Army in a commitment to free the Army of sexual assault and harassment.
As part of that effort, a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit for all Fort Leonard Wood command teams was held April 29.
The summit, hosted by the U.S. Army Military Police School, included a morning briefing at Abrams Theater, an expo at Nutter Field House and an afternoon panel discussion in Lincoln Hall Auditorium.
The purpose of the summit was to increase leader and Soldier knowledge and awareness on prevention techniques through lecture and panel discussions, update personnel on response capabilities, exchange lessons learned and best practices and demonstrate the Army's commitment to prevent sexual assault.
"Some of you may be asking, 'Why are we going through another SHARP summit? I've already done my online training, I was at a summit last fall, I've got this,'" said Brig. Gen. Kent Savre, Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and Fort Leonard Wood commanding general, who opened the summit. "I wouldn't be saying this today, if we had this figured out as an Army -- we wouldn't continue to do SHARP training. But it is a problem, and it's not just an Army problem -- it's a people problem."
Savre said sexual harassment and assault situations break down trust, which impacts mission, people and teams.
"To me, when somebody raises their right hand and agrees to be part of our team, they are not just the nation's sons and daughters, they are our sons and daughters, they are our brothers and sisters, and we have got to take care of them," he said.
Meghan Tokash, Military Sexual Assault Prosecution Expert, attorney-advisor, and Russell Strand, USAMPS Behavioral Sciences Education and Training Division chief, provided the morning briefing on Sexual Assault Prevention -- A Prosecutor's Perspective and Advanced Culture Change respectively.
"After reading the biographies of the two guest speakers, I was anxious to hear what they had to provide to Fort Leonard Wood," said Lt. Col. Katrisa Norwood, MSCoE Ready and Resilient coordinator.
"I wanted to be able to take information from the speakers and the panel members, in order to assist the MSCoE SHARP team with looking at how we can improve. I want to find ways to reach out to the younger generation and assist them with responding to and preventing sexual harassment/assault," Norwood said.
Tokash, a former Judge Advocate General officer, said, "I know we are not going to prevent sexual assault 100 percent, but there are certain things that we can do to prevent sexual assault."
Tokash spoke candidly about ways to reduce and deter sexual assault, which included reporting, intervening, addressing it and believing that progress is possible.
The four-hour SHARP Expo included 14 agencies that relate to and assist the SHARP, Department of Defense, and Sexual Assault Prevention and Response team here, said Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Yentsch, Installation Victim Advocate.
Approximately 150 military and civilian personnel visited the expo for information, he added.
The afternoon segment of the summit included a two-part panel discussion about sexual assault prevention and response.
Capt. Clint Dickerson, Company B, 701st Military Police Battalion commander, attended the panel discussion because he said he has a responsibility to ensure that no member of his unit becomes subject to unwanted sexual advances.
"I also attended, not because I was told I had to, but because I have a role just as everyone else who wears the uniform, in ensuring that we are part of the solution and not the problem," he said.
"I think the greatest lesson I learned was that as leaders, we need to recognize those three personas that our Soldiers and peers have. We need to get away from the 'good Soldier' excuse, and understand that anyone is capable of committing sexual harassment or assault. Everyone in the Army has a responsibility to get after this issue more from a preventative standpoint than a reactionary standpoint. The better we do at eradicating the problem before it exists, the more likely we are to get rid of the issue across the Army," Dickerson said.
Strand, who has more than 39 years in law enforcement and is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of domestic violence intervention, critical incident peer support and sexual assault, said the summit was a success.
"One of the signs of success of a summit, or any other educational opportunity, is when most attendees are challenged to think differently, question their beliefs, and take a close look at their own behaviors and cultural attitudes along with their environment and organizational culture as well," Strand said.
"Another metric of a successful summit is when the discussions stimulate insightful questions and comments," Strand explained. "I believe we hit the mark on both of these goals. Attendees were very engaged, asked terrific questions and made some great comments during panel presentations."
"Soldiers and civilians must mean it when we say -- 'Not in my squad, not in my team, not in my office, not in my unit, not in my Army -- ever.' These are not just words, but a call to action for us all," Strand said.
The Fort Leonard Wood SHARP Helpline is available 24/7 by calling 573.855.1327.