By Justin Graff, 401st AFSB Public AffairsApril 29, 2017
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait -- The 401st Army Field Support Brigade hosted a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) poetry slam here, April 22.
The event included four poets performing original poetry on stage for an audience of about 40 people.
"It went very well," said Staff Sgt. Joshua Austin, S-4 (Logistics), 313th Movement Control Battalion. "The crowd was very energetic and showed their support for the performers."
Austin, who didn't actually compete in the poetry slam, began the show with one of his own poetry pieces to get the crowd involved and excited.
"Events like this increase the awareness for the program because a lot of people may not understand truly how important SHARP is," Austin said. "They might have a perception that it's just about sexual assault. But it's more than that, it's about behavior and dialogue as a whole."
Austin said he gained an interest in poetry when he was deployed to Iraq in 2010, and has been active in the art ever since.
"When we bring poetry into it (SHARP), we open up the conversation," Austin said. "It has to be in the conversation. It has to have an open dialogue."
Each poet recited a timed original poem with no props. A panel of judges, along with input from the audience, chose Sgt. Maj. Velma Lyons, sergeant major, Army Field Support Battalion-Afghanistan as the winner of the poetry slam.
Lyons is the only remaining member of the Women's Army Corps still serving. She grew up in a household with 14 siblings and ventured into poetry out of necessity, she said.
"My father used to work midnight shift, so when we came home from school we had to do our homework and be very quiet," Lyons said. "I had a lot to say, but I couldn't be vocal because my father had to sleep, and I understood that so I started writing my feelings down. That's where poetry started for me, just writing my feelings down."
SHARP can be a sensitive topic and might not receive the proper attention outside of mandatory training because of its serious and vulnerable nature, which increases the need for creative ways to support the program, Lyons said.
"By incorporating creative writing and creative speaking into the program, we give Soldiers an opportunity to express their thoughts," she said. "As a leader, I think it's very important that we listen to our Soldiers, and I want to encourage my Soldiers to use their voices when it comes to SHARP -- if you see something, say something."
The 401st AFSB command group supported the event with opening and closing remarks.
"The SHARP program is extremely important to me, our Army and our nation," said Col. Aaron Stanek, commander, 401st AFSB.
"The chain of command must remain fully engaged," he said. "We are centrally responsible and accountable for solving the problems of sexual assault and harassment within our ranks and for restoring the trust of our Soldiers, civilians, and families.
"Remember -- every victim is someone's spouse, child or relative. No one deserves to be sexually harassed or assaulted. Together we can make sure that no one falls victim to this threat. Together we can be a stronger, more ready and more lethal force."