FORT KNOX, Ky. -- 1st Theater Sustainment Command joined U.S. Army Central as the command kicked off events for Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month here Monday.
1st TSC Soldiers and civilian employees attended a presentation with Poet and Sexual Violence Prevention Advocate Obbie West held at Olive Theater via Microsoft Teams.
Maj. Gen. John P. Sullivan, commanding general, 1st TSC, introduced the program and West, “I can’t think of a better way to formally kick off the month of awareness,” he said over Teams.
West retired from the Army and has traveled the world as a motivational speaker, presenting life-depicting poetry on a variety of topics. He captivated the audience with his poetic delivery focusing on disruptive behaviors. He discussed bystander information and the influence of leadership.
“I am a leader. I am a strategic leader,” West began his presentation.
West is best known for his signature poem, “The Perpetrator’s Perspective,” which earned a first place Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Communications Award for this long form production video.
“I follow Obbie West on social media,” said Staff Sgt. Lenisha Finney, budget analyst, 1st TSC G8. “He is inspirational and has empowering messages. I wanted to attend when I heard that he was presenting.”
West said that we can’t assess our sexual assault and awareness training during rehearsal as we do with other measurable Army training. He explained a couple of ways that we can assess our sexual assault and prevention efforts is through how we prevent and how we care for a person if an assault were to occur.
He also stressed that our training must be gender neutral, because women are not the only victims of sexual assault. Men can be victims too, and both genders can perpetrate the crime, which goes against Army Values.
Capt. Nicole McCoy, 1st TSC SHARP program manager, said, “These are all messages that our commanding general has been pushing, and West is amazing,” she said. “His messages are empowering and appeal to younger soldiers.”
During his presentation, West highlighted five bystander interventions. He also stressed that it is one of our most demanding missions and that the incentive is that it saves lives.
“Offenders thrive on ignored warning signs,” West said. “Predators move on our stillness.”
“Character and capability are not created equal,” he explained. “Just because someone is always on time and completes their work tasks doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of sexually assaulting someone.”
“Rid yourself of the term, it’s not my business,” West urged.
West said that it’s easy to play blind. “It takes courage to say something,” he said. He encouraged people to intervene in stopping something illegal from actually happening. What starts out as an inappropriate joke or improper touching could potentially turn into a crime. West said that we must forget about the uncertainty of not having the details.
Don’t wait for others to act. No one else said anything. Everyone thought someone else was addressing it. West stressed that those aren’t valid excuses.
“The criteria of being an active bystander is that you have to believe in what you’re defending,” he said.
West also stressed that leaders set the tone. He explained respect for a person and respect for authority.
“Soldiers are trained to respect those higher ranking, but they should also set the example for soldiers to respect them as a person,” he said.
If a junior soldier sees a leader addressing inappropriate behavior prior to any action, then they know it will not be tolerated. West encouraged leaders to, “conduct themselves to be respected as people too.”
Maj. Gen. Sullivan concluded the presentation saying that a lot resonated with him. “I am a firm believer in language left unchecked can lead to action. There is some leading indicator before action,” he said.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael J. Perry III, senior enlisted advisor, 1st TSC, stressed that it is our “obligation and duty to prevent sexual assault and harassment, and we all have the responsibility to prevent it. If we don’t, we’re part of the problem,” he concluded.
This was the prevailing message of the event. Know the signs if you see them, and prevent sexual assault or harassment in the Army by holding others accountable for their inappropriate language or behaviors before they lead to action.