YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea -- In an effort to remove what senior leaders consider a major threat to Army readiness, Eighth Army hosted a Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention leadership panel discussion at the Dragon Hill Lodge April 6.
The event brought together company grade leaders and above to address the trends of sexual assault incidents throughout Area II, as well as lessons learned and potential solutions.
"Commanders and first sergeants, you are responsible for the culture you set in your organizations and you can't allow things to fester," said Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, Eighth Army Commanding General. If you bury your head in the sand, it will happen. But if you are an engaged leader, you will be able to nip it in the bud. It's all about the command climate that you set."
Vandal stated that 38 percent of sexual assaults reported are committed by first line supervisors and challenged the NCO corps to get passionate about the program.
He said if the community is going to fix the problem, NCOs and first line leaders are going to do it.
The panel of nine subject matter experts included representatives from organizations throughout the community involved in combatting and responding to sexual assault cases. Mr. Gyron Peden, Eighth Army SHARP program manager served as the moderator.
The "lack of values and discipline" theme resonated throughout the discussion as the main reason sexual assault continues to be a problem in the Army.
"Because of the influence of traditional and social media, many of these young Soldiers' value systems are based on what they see and hear through these outlets," said Master Sgt. Latisha Turner, Area II Lead Sexual Assault Careu Coordinator.
"As a result, what 'right' looks like sometimes come from external sources other than the Army," she said. "The Army values must consistently be drilled into our Soldiers. The Army values must become their values too."
Many of the participants weighed in and shared their experiences while serving as leaders in their command.
"While First Sergeant and I can talk SHARP until we're blue in the face, we both know that Soldiers will pay attention more and understand more (while training) and discussing these issues with and amongst each other," said Capt. Kimberly Bevins, Commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade.
Bevins said that she and her first sergeant aim for dynamic training where Soldiers are acting out vignettes and talking through how the situation escalated or could have escalated to sexual assault or harassment.
"Our goal is for Soldiers to learn and take training with them throughout their career," said Bevins. "We as leaders owe them value added training that resonates with them and is at their level."