501st Military Intelligence Brigade Trains SHARP Ambassadors

By Kurt Van SlootenMarch 27, 2020

USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea – 501st Military Intelligence Brigade held its fourth 3-day Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Ambassador training at its headquarters on Camp Humphreys, March 17-20.

“End state of the SHARP Ambassador training is to empower junior Soldiers and Leaders to actively engage in bystander intervention with open and frank discussions, promote the SHARP message throughout their units and to become the first line of defense among their peers,” said L. Tyrone Randall, 501st MI Brigade Sexual Assault Response Coordinator or SARC.

501st MI Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Martino opened the training telling the participants, “Everything we do is about establishing trust. What you do has a dramatic effect on that.” He admonished them to take care of their people, and to intervene when they see a situation that has the potential to go bad.

During the first day of SHARP Ambassador Training, several of the junior leaders spun a wheel that had prompts with potentially uncomfortable situations that asked, “What would you do?” This activity helped to stimulate conversation and get the group into the mindset necessary to confront difficult situations and deal with them appropriately.

Capt. George Mesias, a licensed social worker and Behavioral Health officer, spoke to the group and explained the “fight, flight or freeze” response common to traumatic experiences like sexual assault. He told them responses are individual to the person that endured the event and can range from withdrawal to trying to be more involved in everything in an effort to re-establish a sense of normalcy. He went on to say that alcohol and drugs, whether healthy or not, sometimes become coping mechanisms. He emphasized that we should not judge people who have been through these types of situations, be it sexual harassment or assault, as the survivor will most likely expect to be judged.

“They need to be heard, they need to be accepted and they need to be supported,” said Mesias.

When discussing stepping in and intervening to stop potential harassment or assault, Mesias said, “That one person who makes a difference can set off a chain reaction that can create a change in culture.”

The junior leaders also heard from Nate Svedin, a performance expert from the Ready and Resilient Performance Center and Special Agent Matthew Haywood, a special victim investigator from the Army Criminal Investigation Division. Svedin asked the participants if they knew about the bystander effect. One of the group elaborated that it happens when there are a bunch of people around watching something happen; everyone assumes that someone else will step in and help, but no one does. Svedin then provided the components of the Army program Engage that help a bystander commit and help someone that needs assistance.

The three components are: I am aware; I am responsible; and I have a plan. When a person decides he or she has met these criteria Svedin said, they are much more able to commit, act and not remain a passive bystander. Svedin emphasized that the point is to catch the issue before it becomes a problem by looking for the red flags or indicators.

Haywood discussed victimology and how survivors are impacted by the crime. He covered counter-intuitive victim behavior and how memory recall is affected by sexual trauma. He helped the young leaders to understand that the victim's behavior, even when counter-intuitive, is satisfying a need and that they must try to understand the need that is being met.

“The leader's role is to do their best to keep the victim connected, empowered, and calm throughout the investigative and judicial process, not to judge whether or not their allegation of sexual assault is authentic,” said Haywood.

After hearing from the outside speakers, the group was given the SHARP smart card, told about the resources available and given further training on how to assist survivors of sexual assaults.

The second two days of the SHARP Ambassador Training focused on providing junior Soldiers specialized SHARP training. The goal for these two days, said Randall, is not only to train the demographic of E1 to E4, but also to make them feel like they are a part of the program. “We are charging them with promoting the SHARP message throughout the ranks and to act as the first line of defense amongst their peers. Whether that means giving advice, intervening, assisting in training, or leading small group discussions. They are already on the front line and we need them to step up.”

The Soldiers were also asked to spin the wheel and conduct the “What would you do?” activity. They then went over the SHARP smart card. Staff Sgt. Quashaundria Williams, a victim advocate and all-source intelligence analyst for 532nd MI Battalion, explained the categories of sexual harassment and approaches to resolving it. They were also acquainted with what constituted sexual assault, what to do if someone is sexually assaulted and the resources available.

Sgt. 1st Class Estelita Medina, Equal Opportunity advisor for the 501st MI Brigade spoke to the Soldiers. She discussed the components that make-up values, beliefs and culture and how those factors feed into how people relate to and interact with each other.

A SHARP panel broke down the process of what happens when a sexual assault occurs, the resources available and the assistance they can provide survivors. The panel had representatives from Army CID, the brigade’s unit ministry team, behavioral health, victim witness liaison and the brigade’s military and family life counselor.

The Soldiers also heard from Alex Abraham and Lia Gorden, performance experts from the Ready and Resilient Performance Center, who explained the components of the Engage program.

Spc. Alexander Barr, a cryptologic linguist, said the SHARP Ambassador training taught him a lot more about the resources available to survivors of sexual assault, where to direct them and how to better get them the help they need.

Upon completion of the ambassador training, Martino spoke to the Soldiers.

“I know each one of you joined for a different reason, but at the end of the day, now that you’re here, this is family,” said Martino. “This is about taking care of family and taking care of each other at the grassroots level. We have to understand the impact of one single tragic event. If we have one slip up where somebody gets injured; the impact to the survivor but not only that individual but the entire organization implodes around them. It eats away at the trust of an organization.”

Martino continued, “During the workday, engage your leadership. But at night, when someone might be there lurking in the darkness, take care of your friends. If people are drinking too heavily, and you see things are going to escalate, intervene! It is all about taking care of each other.”

Finally, Martino thanked the Soldiers for taking the time to be ambassadors and for truly wanting to take care of their teammates.

The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces that could threaten the tense but stable peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command and their subordinate units.