The 548th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Month 2018 with a "Not in My Squad, Not in My Army" Competition, which showcased Soldier poetry, essays, art, and skits focused on preventing and reporting sexual harassment and assault within the ranks.
Staff Sgt. Yessenia Corey spearheaded the event on Fort Drum after the battalion saw success with a similar competition while it was deployed to Kuwait last fall.
"We saw this as a different approach to training and as a way for Soldiers to take their learning into their own hands," Corey said. "The Sergeant Major of the Army's 'Not in My Squad, Not in My Army' initiative equips and enables Soldiers at all levels to act when they see that something's not right, and it teaches Soldiers to speak up and say that we don't allow this type of behavior in our Army."
Soldiers had approximately a month to submit essays, poetry, and artwork for the competition. The winning Soldiers from each category presented their work at a battalion NIMS/NIMA training event, where each company within the battalion also performed short skits focused on preventing sexual harassment and assault and the NIMS/NIOA initiatives.
The competition winners were: Pfc. Eeralle Jones from 543rd Composite Supply Company for his essay "The importance of not in my squad/not in my Army," Pfc. Antonio Cancel from HHC for his poem, and Spc. Naomi Sautia-Pomele from HHC for her artwork.
The 514th Supply Maintenance Company won the skit competition, which was performed and judged live.
"When we first started rehearsing, it was a little bit rough around the edges," said 514th's 1st Sgt. Adam Edgell. "But as we went along, I could tell the Soldiers were really getting the full grasp of what it was all about and the things we were discussing. The Soldiers walked away from this morning smiling and better-informed," he said.
"Our leadership was incredibly supportive of every part of this competition," said Corey. "We got really good feedback, but most importantly I know that if you ask any one of those Soldiers what 'Not in My Squad' is about, they'll be able to tell you, and I hope that means they'll also be able to speak up."
The event, held on April 25, fell on "Denim Day," a nationally-recognized part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Denim Day allows Soldiers to trade their uniforms for blue jeans, recalling a court ruling in which a rape conviction was overturned after the judge determined that the victim gave implied consent by helping her rapist remove her tight jeans.