By Amy PerryOctober 5, 2017
FORT LEE, Va. (Oct. 5, 2017) -- About 120 community members attended the 3rd annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Summit, titled "Leadership Transforms Culture," Sept. 28 in the Army Logistics University multipurpose room.
Audience members included senior officers, enlisted leaders, directors, unit victim advocates and members of installation health and wellness programs, among others. The event was coordinated by Dr. James Walker and Master Sgt. Hope Williams, CASCOM and Fort Lee SHARP Program manager and lead sexual assault response coordinator, respectively.
The summit included a variety of briefings to educate those in attendance about the sexual awareness and response program and the types of issues those in leadership positions may face.
"Dr. Walker and I chose presenters who were able to give perspectives from the highest office in the SHARP program on policy, procedures, regulation and how the Army is doing as a force to combat sexual violence," said Williams. "Then, we tried to provide the senior leadership some insight on what a victim of sexual assault endures with the forensic exam and how invasive it is. Lastly, we tried to provide the attendees an understanding that as society changes, culture changes and the Army adapts. We also must be aware and mindful of those changes when dealing with Soldiers every day."
After a brief welcome to attendees from Walker, Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley Jr., CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general, laid out his expectations for the summit and encouraged the audience to not forget the topic's importance.
"Sometimes, we tend to overload the frequency when we talk about these kinds of things," he said. "I don't want the importance of the topic to get lost or diluted based on how much time we talk about it. It is an issue. For example, just today, I got a report about an assault. So, it happens way, way too much."
To drive his point home about how important SHARP is, Hurley asked the attendees about the major weapons systems of the various military branches with aircraft for the Air Force and ships for the Navy.
"What's the major weapon system of the Army?" he questioned. "Soldiers! It's not the rifles or vehicles; it's the Soldiers."
Citing a sacred trust to the American public, Hurley said it's vital to take care of the troops, whether it's downrange or during everyday garrison operations.
"There are times when we go into combat zones knowing we are going to put our young men and women in harm's way," he said. "It's sad and it hurts your heart to do it every time, but it is an essential requirement to complete the mission. However, that sentiment does not always extend back here (the home station). What we can't do is to allow ourselves to get complacent and not take care of our sacred treasure -- our men and women in uniform.
"Sometimes, taking care of those men and women is all about raising awareness of sexual harassment and sexual assault," Hurley continued, "and all the associated misconduct to make sure we establish an environment of dignity and respect in a safe and respective culture where no one is put in harm's way."
Hurley said he knows people hate talking about SHARP because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
"We're going to take this uncomfortable subject and we are going to tear it apart and talk about it," he said. "We're going to come out of here with an elevated level of awareness, and we're going to come out of here with ways we can improve our foxhole. That requires communication."
While attending a Chief of Staff of the Army SHARP symposium, Hurley said he was affected by one of the presentations and shared those feelings with the Lee audience.
"They had young Soldiers -- both male and female -- up front who gave testimonials on what happened to them when they joined the Army. I remember thinking to myself 'this is the most uncomfortable I've ever been in uniform, listening to these young Soldiers.' That could be my daughter. That could be my son. I thought, 'What have I not done that allowed this kind of stuff to happen in my ranks?'
"Not a single one of them had to join the Army," he observed. "It's an all-volunteer force. So, despite societal pressures and the angst of their mom and dad, they joined our ranks, and the very least we can do is ensure they are safeguarded while they are here and while they are serving."
After the summit concluded, Williams said it was clearly as a worthwhile experience for leaders in attendance.
"All walked away from the day more educated and more empowered to hold individuals accountable for their actions no matter their rank, grade, gender or position," she said. "The biggest take-away from the day has to be the vital importance of leadership involvement and intervention. Senior leaders on Fort Lee have the ability and responsibility to inspire and affect change in the culture and the environment of their organizations. Civilians, junior leaders and Soldiers will then be empowered to correct improper behavior. The sexual violence within our ranks can only be eliminated with that change."