FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Within a week of arriving at Fort Leonard Wood, new initial entry trainees are finding out how seriously the Army takes its Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention, or SHARP, policies through an updated training program conducted by the 14th Military Police Brigade, which oversees the 43rd Adjutant General Battalion in charge of the week-long reception process.
According to Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Lillard, the brigade sexual assault response coordinator, his unit has been using its improved SHARP training since May, with vignettes and scenarios included to ensure the Army’s newest Soldiers in training retain crucial information on the program’s policies and procedures.
The upgrades are based on best practices at the 3rd Chemical Brigade, Lillard said, where the scenario-based SHARP briefings have led to a decline in incident numbers.
Since instituting the updated SHARP briefing at the beginning of 2021, the 3rd Chem. Bde. has seen a 72 percent decrease in the number of SHARP reports so far this year compared to 2020, said 1st Lt. Roslyn Thomas, 3rd Chem. Bde. SARC.
Previously, SHARP information wasn’t being provided until after arrival at the training company. Lillard said he’s hopeful the change in the timing of the briefing along with the improvements are helping to better demonstrate to the reception trainees that one lapse in concentration can cause a lifetime of problems.
“It’s very important that our newest people know their rights, responsibilities and expectations regarding SHARP as early as possible,” he said.
To aid in understanding, Lillard said they “civilian-ized” a lot of the language they use.
“For some of them, this is their first day in the Army,” he said.
Interspersed into a standard slideshow briefing are four vignettes — common examples of sexual harassment and assault — performed as skits by brigade cadre, and a victim advocate facilitates the training. In one scenario, two Soldiers are rating the looks of some of the other Soldiers in their unit when a third Soldier overhears the conversation. In another scenario, a Soldier attempts to inappropriately touch another Soldier while demonstrating a workout technique.
“We are trying to demonstrate what we’ve seen, so we can hopefully prevent future incidents from happening,” Lillard said. “We want to set these trainees up for success by showing them that the Army does not tolerate this kind of behavior.”
Also included in the training is an explanation of the differences between what’s called restricted and unrestricted reporting of sexual assault, Lillard said.
Restricted reporting allows a sexual assault victim to confidentially disclose the details of their assault to specified individuals and receive medical treatment and counseling, without triggering the official investigative process. Under restricted reporting, the assault may only be reported to a sexual assault response coordinator, victim advocate, a chaplain or a healthcare provider.
Unrestricted reporting is for victims of sexual assault who desire medical treatment, counseling, legal assistance, SARC/SHARP specialist and VA/SHARP specialist assistance, and an official investigation of the crime. When selecting unrestricted reporting, a victim may report an incident to the SARC/SHARP specialist or VA/SHARP specialist, request healthcare providers to notify law enforcement, contact law enforcement themselves or use current reporting channels such as the chain of command.
“We don’t want a Soldier to inadvertently disclose something that reduces their ability to maintain protected communications,” Lillard said. “We let them know that if they want to go restricted, these are the people they can talk to. We also address unrestricted, where there is an investigation, supervisors are notified and the subject can be held accountable if found guilty.”
One of the 600 trainees who received SHARP training at reception last week was Spc. Michael Thompson, a Human Intelligence Collector trainee here for Basic Combat Training. Thompson, who was on day four here when he received the training Friday, said he feels confident of his understanding of SHARP policies.
“I think the scenario-based training is a little bit more immersive and helps keep you engaged,” he said. “Everything was pretty well defined. There was no question about what the expectations are.”
Pfc. Antoinette Dupar, who arrived here July 27 for One Station Unit Training to become a combat engineer, agreed with Thompson.
“I think it makes the trainees very comfortable because they know who to go to if they need help,” she said.
Visit the Army’s SHARP website for more information on the program. Fort Leonard Wood’s sexual assault helpline can be reached 24/7 at 573.855.1327.