ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Readiness and accountability set the tone for the third annual Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Summit held here May 10, 2016, in Mallette Auditorium.
With the auditorium filled near capacity, Non-commissioned officers, Department of Defense (DoD) Civilians, Senior Army Officers, as well as members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) from locations across DoD joined in day-long panel discussions aimed at promoting greater awareness, and gaining fresher insights into myriad SHARP-related topics and trends. The discussions were designed to support the program's theme for this year, "Not In My Army -- From Buy-In to Ownership."
U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Commanding General and APG Senior Installation Commander, Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford welcomed attendees, as well as SHARP supporters and organizers, and extended his sincere appreciation to keynote speaker Lt. Gen. Robert L. Caslen, Jr., 59th Superintendent, U.S. Military Academy West Point for his participation in this high-profile SHARP initiative.
The early morning summit began with an introductory video consisting of a variety of SHARP-driven events and activities conducted over the past year. For many of those who were unable to attend the recently held APG SHARP Poetry Slam, the summit allowed them an opportunity to hear several of the actual poets presenting their artistic creations. Ranging from profound to sobering, each presentation helped to build a foundation upon which the summit could continue.
"When I look across the footprint, and look at who's here today, I think we've got everybody well represented," said Crawford in his opening remarks. "So, as we think about the subject, and the overall importance of this subject, it's not about what only makes this community special, but the fact that you're here today, I believe in my heart of hearts, this is what makes our nation great."
Crawford went on to say that a lot of hard work and energy had gone into this SHARP effort, and given all that had gone into this particular subject, leadership chose to move from 'Buy-in' to 'Ownership'.
"A lot of great work has gone into readying our formations, and readying our workforce, and our Army to include our civilian employees. I ask you to think, and put yourself beyond what we talk about here today, and I want you to think about tomorrow. Where do we go from here? The way I described moving from 'Buy-in' to 'Ownership', and some of you have heard me say this, but I think it is appropriate at this time, is 'buy-in' means I like what you're doing, but 'ownership', and what's going to be required to get us beyond where we are today, to really get at the root cause, for some of the challenges, means I'm willing to help you. That's where I believe we need to go. And that's when we ultimately win."
"I'm very passionate about the elimination of sexual harassment and sexual assault in our formations," Caslen said during his keynote address. "I'm passionate about it at the United States Military Academy, and I'm passionate about leadership because that's what leaders do, and to see this assembled group, to have a summit like this, and to see so many leaders and so many other people that are here today, I give you a lot of credit and I'm very proud to be a part of it.
Caslen continued his presentation -- touching on the matter of unintended consequences and how they are something that every leader has to understand.
"Our actions and our words, regardless of what you think they mean, have consequences," he said. "The importance about leaders is that leaders build teams. Leaders edify. They build people up. Leaders unite. They take diverse elements and bring them together as one.
"My job is to build people up and to be inclusive. Leaders are in the business of being inclusive, and making everybody on that team, feel that they are a valued member of the team. Making everybody feel that they are respected. Making everybody feel that they can contribute, and making everybody feel that they are secure both emotionally and physically, and that's what leaders do. It is the leadership and command climate that we as leaders present in our organizations, so that there is not sexist behavior, there is not favoritism of one over another. Everybody in our group is treated properly and with respect, and that's what leaders do."
While the summit clearly represented the APG leadership's commitment to positive and unwavering support of SHARP sensitivities and demands, it also drove home the point that they recognize there remains much work to be done. This awareness was perfectly demonstrated by the following group of survivors and panelists;
Panel 1 -- Innovation/Issues/Trends -- Sgt. Maj. Stephen Bowens, HQDA SHARP Office; Ms. Samantha Ross, U.S. Military Academy; Chief Peter Anders, Millersville University Police Department; and Dr. Jessica Gallus, HQDA SHARP Office.
Panel 2 -- Civilian Lines of Effort -- Ms. Laura Crawford, HQDA SHARP Office; Mr. Dexter Brooks, Equal Opportunity Employment Commission; Lt. Col. Kyson Johnson, HQDA OTJAG; and Ms Bette Stebbins-Inch, OSD SAPRO.
Panel 3 -- Leadership Focus -- Ms. Lauren Ishmael, JPEO-CBD; Col. James Davis, APG Garrison Commander; Maj. Rheanna Felton, OSJA, JFHQ-NCR/MDW; and CSM Matthew McCoy, CECOM Command Sgt. Maj.
Survivors Telling Their Story -- Col. Jack Usrey, Ms. Artenze Hall, and Ms. Melissa Myers.
Their topics addressed more in depth the way ahead and the challenges confronting SHARP in today's environment. It is an environment that speaks to the continuous need for support of the Army's readiness and accountability efforts. Nowhere was this more evident than in the words of those survivors who used the SHARP Summit as an opportunity to share their personal stories and experiences with sexual assault and harassment. Their courage to speak out was met with tremendous audience admiration and applause.
While this year's APG SHARP Summit drew to a close, the challenge to remain focused on readiness and accountability did not.
"There is no point where we can get to where we can say, this is no longer a problem," said Crawford. "So, I ask you to think beyond today, and think about what happens about 1700 hours this afternoon, when the summit is done. I want you to leave here with the mindset that there are 365 summits. In order for us to get ourselves to where we need to be--accountable to the nation--moving from 'buy-in' to 'ownership', this can't be treated as a one off event, and so that's my message to you all today."
By all accounts it was clear, the APG SHARP Summit successfully fostered ownership at every leadership level by providing the necessary tools and information to take effective action to attack this problem.