ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. -- Nearly 30 Soldiers and Department of Defense civilians from areas throughout the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM), successfully completed the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Foundation Course June 30, at the Mallette Training Facility on Aberdeen Proving Ground (APG), Maryland.
The course, which is mandated by Headquarters Department of the Army, is aimed at training designated unit and or organization representatives to become the SHARP specialists for their respective commands. In advance of the training, however, candidates are vetted by their chain of command in an effort to determine whether they are suited for the SHARP commitment and demands.
The last day of the two-week course was no less demanding than the days prior for the APG students. Final day presentations highlighted a multitude of situations and scenarios a SHARP representative might someday have to confront or address. At the heart of the training was the resounding message of awareness. Making individuals, groups and communities cognizant of the SHARP services available, knowing where SHARP locations are, and who to contact in the event those services are needed, was a message constantly repeated throughout the 80-hour training session.
Prominent in the training was the opportunity for students to come up with ideas and suggestions that might be helpful in better promoting SHARP at their various organizations. The ideas ranged from ways to eliminate bullying, to coming up with public relations initiatives that will include support from installation news sources, as well as utilization of social media in communicating the command's SHARP awareness program and messages.
Speaking to the issue of bullying, one student participant suggested that at the elementary school level, bullying be placed on the front burner, and that a family self-defense program become another positive step toward eliminating SHARP related incidents or problems. He said, "When I speak of a family self-defense program, I'm not talking about the usual kicking, punching, and hitting, but rather I'm talking about vigilant…being strongly aware of your surroundings."
Pointing out the importance of awareness, his teammate echoed similar sentiments stating, "For example, APG is a large installation, and buildings are spread about. I noticed one day, a young lady walking down the street and there was only one building in the distance, and in a dimly lit area. She had her headphones on, and she seemed oblivious to her surroundings. This is where awareness is so important, and just one of the ways individuals can take a more responsible part in reducing or possibly eliminating assault issues."
On hand to provide guidance, and feedback to the new SHARP specialists were a number of subject matter experts. Their comments ranged from satisfaction with the use of effectively tying I.A.M. (Intervene, Act, and Motivate) Strong --the Army's campaign to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault by engaging all Soldiers in preventing sexual assault before they occur, into their presentations, to ensuring Department of Defense civilian audiences are included in their SHARP outreach action plans.
"You might walk into a classroom, and everybody's a civilian," Said Sgt. Maj. Bruce Williams, SHARP Program Manager, Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Command. "Are you going to only talk to them about military topics? No. Make sure you cover civilians, and if you need help, turn to the subject matter experts at the Equal Employment Opportunity office, and or the legal office. Help is out there. Use it."
He went on to say, "In all that you do, stress with your co-workers the Army values -- Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. All of those apply to SHARP. General Mark A. Milley, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, expresses readiness as priority number one. SHARP is definitely a part of readiness. If people are not coming to work because of appointments, or they're scared to come to work, they seek expedited transfers. Everything ties into SHARP. We have an important job to do, and I wish you all the best.
"You have your instructors contact information, and your SHARP Program Manager's information, please feel free to contact them if you have any questions. Always seek resolution at the lowest level first, and never lose sight of the fact that at the end of the day, you're taking care of people in your organization, and now that you're certified, you can take care of a person at any installation and any branch of service. Just be aware of that. Don't close the door on anybody and say 'that's not a part of my job.' Once you get this certification, you're there to help everybody in need."
Williams' words were spoken with deep conviction, and as he continued to speak the course graduates appeared to cling to his every word. As his presentation came to a close, he said, "In your training events, please stress bystander intervention. If you see something going wrong, people should jump in and prevent it from happening. That's how we stop sexual harassment. That's how we stop sexual assault. A lot of people wait until the wire keeps twisting and twisting and twisting, and then it's so difficult to get it straight. Stop it. Nip it in the bud.
"Our leaders are right now taking action. We're trying to prevent retaliation. We're showing accountability. Be with your commanders. They know that SHARP is their program. Now that you have completed this training, you must work to ensure that everyone in their program, is going to follow their guidance. When you're out there training, walk the walk, and talk the talk because now that you are certified, there are high expectations we have of you."
APG's installation's SHARP Program Manager, Tracy Marshall was present during the Foundation Course graduation, and in congratulating the students, said, "You all have accomplished something great. What you do when you leave here is important to the SHARP goals and mission. I encourage you to serve well, and never forget that you have people and support available whenever you need it."