CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait - Over 40 Soldiers representing units deployed throughout the Central Command area of operations gathered here to attend the 14-day long Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Foundation Course in January. This course trains Soldiers to become future SHARP Specialists for their respective commands.
The class is mandated by Headquarters Department of the Army and because deployed units sometimes arrive without a credentialed SHARP Specialists, the SHARP Foundation Course is held in Kuwait and Afghanistan on a quarterly basis. A brigade-sized element is required to have one full-time Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and one full-time Victim Advocate.
Soldiers interested in becoming a SHARP specialist go through a specific background check, be interviewed by their chain of command and the current assigned SARC to see if he or she is a good candidate for the course, followed by a national-level screening by HQDA.
Thomas M. White Jr., 81st Regional Support Command Sexual Assault Response coordinator and program manager, is one of 10 instructors in the Army Reserve qualified to instruct the SHARP Foundation Course. He volunteered to come to Kuwait to instruct this latest class, stressing the importance of learning from each other, more interaction, and less PowerPoint.
White said, "Whether Soldiers were selected or they volunteered, when they leave the training, they have a new respect for the program. They learn that this is serious."
SHARP instructor, Sgt. 1st Class Dontavious Seales, is with the 1st Sustainment Command (Theater) and assigned to the CENTCOM area of responsibility. He has taught several classes since being with the 1st TSC, both at Fort Bragg and in the Army Central AOR .
Seales says that the new course focuses on breaking down the barriers when it comes to reporting. He explains there are no statute of limitations for sexual assault and up to six months to report sexual harassment. He also explained the helpfulness of using real world experiences and discussing closed cases, and being very interactive to allow Soldiers to have a better understanding.
"I try to bridge the gap with age differences by having classroom projects, like listening to songs with different metaphors in it, with sexual innuendos. Older leaders think that if there is no profanity in it, we think it is good," said Seales.
He added that Soldiers gain a great deal of knowledge from taking the course and are able to do function as SHARP Specialists in theater and back at home.
"They go back and they know how to do outreach and how to work with the local police authorities and local rape crisis centers in order to bring relevant information to the soldiers in the process."
At the end of the course, a graduation ceremony was held and attendees included, ARCENT Deputy Commanding General of Operations Maj. Gen. William B. Hickman, 335th Signal Command (Theater) Commander Brig. Gen. Lawrence F. Thoms, ARCENT Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie R. Kelley, and 335th Signal Command Command Sgt. Maj. Sharon R. Campbell.
During the graduation ceremony, Campbell shared a personal experience she had in 1981 as a young 18-year-old at her first duty station in Korea when she was called to her first sergeant's hut only to find him naked upon her arrival.
"For a moment I just froze, thinking, 'what do I do? This is the first sergeant,'" said Campbell.
She managed to back out and run back to her room, confiding in her roommate. They never spoke of that incident again, nor did the first sergeant ever ask her back to his room.
In 2013, Campbell was at SHARP course and shared her story for the first time, another female Soldier about her age stood up and stated the first sergeant's name. She said the first sergeant had been at her camp and was moved to another camp for that same reason.
Campbell began to wonder, "How many camps had this first sergeant been moved from? How many other young soldiers had been affected? Should I have done more? Was the culture at that time receptive to a formal report?" "The guilt was the last thing that got me. It just came rushing in, how many after me?"
She challenged the new SHARP graduates to take the training and expertise they have gained and establish an effective and innovative program for their Soldiers, at their respective units.
If you, or your Soldiers are interested in attending the SHARP Foundation Course, contact your SHARP Specialist - Victim Advocate or your Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for more information.