By Amy L. Haviland, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Public AffairsMay 7, 2015
"Not in my squad."
"Not on my campus."
The locations are different, but the goal is the same, and for the second year in a row, the Army and academia partnered to find ways to put an end to sexual harassment and sexual assault.
This year, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC, leaders met with representatives from regional colleges and universities on Fort Eustis, Virginia, April 29, to discuss a problem that affects Soldiers as well as students, many ages 18-24.
"Many of the issues we are seeing in our communities and on our installations and campuses are very similar, when we start talking about issues of sexual assault and sexual harassment," said Maj. Gen. Ross Ridge, deputy commanding general for the U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training and TRADOC's Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention, or SHARP, Program co-lead.
This year, 10 university and college representatives attended the roundtable discussion, which focused on a variety of topics, including bystander intervention, lessons learned, best practices and new ways to prevent sexual harassment and assault.
"We are all working a similar problem, but we are all trying to work it independently," said Ellen Helmerson, TRADOC deputy chief of staff for G-1/4, G-8 and TRADOC SHARP co-lead. "This is an opportunity for us to talk about what's working, what's not working, to partner and collaborate, and see if this is something that we can work together."
Helmerson said the challenges, the two groups face, may be more similar than they think, comparing freshmen to basic trainees and resident assistants to noncommissioned officers.
"I really never thought about it in the same way," said Evelyn Whitehead, Virginia State University representative. "When they talked about new Soldiers in the barracks and compared it to residence halls, the concerns the military has are very similar to the concerns universities have about incoming students."
As schools shared their experiences with different prevention initiatives, many agreed one of the bigger challenges is getting people to understand they are, in fact, responsible for their peers.
To that end, TRADOC leaders discussed the sergeant major of the Army's new initiative, "Not in my squad," which charges front-line supervisors to be accountable for their Soldiers' well-being, including issues of harassment and assault.
Another topic discussed was that many think it would not happen to them - that they are somehow immune to the possibility of harassment or assault.
"The issue that we found was that many did not see themselves as potential victims," Ridge said.
However, statistics tell a different story.
According to the National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, nearly one in four females and one in six males will be sexually assaulted by age 18. And of those who are not directly affected, many know someone who has either been a victim or a witness of sexual harassment or assault.
One of the ways TRADOC is helping to aid and empower both victims and bystanders of sexual assault and harassment is through its "We Care" app. Available for download on Apple and Android smartphones, the app provides resources for victims and witnesses of sexual harassment or assault.
"It's not about whether you need [the app], but you may need it to help your friend," Ridge said.
The two-hour session ended with an exchange of information between TRADOC and the schools, and although Sexual Assault Awareness Month ended the following day, the partnership between the Army and academia continues to grow.
The team effort began last April with the first discussion of this kind - a historic event including a list of more than 200 attendees - military and civilian - ranging from Army leaders to community leaders and educators representing various colleges and universities throughout the region.
Although this year's event was smaller in number, Helmerson said it was equally as successful.
"The great thing was - they opened up more," she said of the representatives, adding that several different schools attended this year, which also brought different experiences and ideas. "I think we had about the same number of schools, but the mix was different, which is good news."
Whitehead, who was also a first-time attendee, said she thought the meeting provided a very good dialogue.
"I think the military has so many resources that the universities can take a note from them," said Whitehouse, adding that she hopes to attend future sessions. "It's important for us to be involved in conversations like this."
And TRADOC intends to keep the conversation going.
After last year's SHARP event, the undersecretary of the Army reached out to colleges and universities throughout the United States, inviting them to enter SHARP partnerships with their respective ROTC programs. The goal of the partnerships was again for the Army to share knowledge and prevention efforts with academic institutions via the ROTC units. To date, 185 schools have signed charters, or agreements, and at least 50 more are expected to sign by the end of the year.
"We've made such great progress on getting agreements between the schools and their ROTC leads," Helmerson said.
Additionally, TRADOC began to look to its schools and centers of excellence throughout the nation for more ways to reach out to local communities and exchange prevention efforts. To date, three TRADOC locations have joined in the initiative.
The Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, or DLIFLC, at the Presidio of Monterey, California, was the first location to partner with the Air Force, Navy and 14 universities during a SHARP workshop, March 31-April 1.
"The event was successful because it brought together, for the first time, a broad range of participants who share the similar challenge of preventing sexual assaults on our bases and campuses," said Col. David K. Chapman, DLIFLC's commandant.
Currently, Fort Rucker, Alabama, is preparing for an upcoming SHARP event, and the Combined Arms Center on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is scheduled to conduct a national SHARP conference, July 20-21, titled, "Achieving cultural change: Building trust between an Institution and its members."
"It's a great opportunity to take that three-tier approach," Helmerson said. "One, what can we do locally using professors of military science; two, what can our commanders do to reach out regionally; and three, leveraging the SHARP Academy - what can we do to reach out nationally to colleges and universities?"
Aside from differences in processes and procedures between the Army and academia, there are still similarities that can help both institutions share possible solutions to a common problem.
"We have information that we think can help them, and they have information and ideas that could help us," Helmerson said. "The goodness of it is continuing to communicate, and if some lesson that we've learned can help somebody else, whether it's an individual or a school, I'm just happy to share it."