CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – More than 25 Soldiers assigned to various units here became ambassadors for the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program on Sept. 24 after a two-day training session hosted by the 1st Theater Sustainment Command Operational Command Post.
The voluntary training, designed to provide junior Soldiers with the education and skills necessary to promote culture change within their formations, was born from a Soldier-generated concept presented during an innovation challenge to the XVIII Airborne Corps commanding general in February at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Maj. Samantha E. Douglas, a logistics officer serving as the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator for the 1st TSC OCP, led a pilot ambassador training program for her Fort Bragg, North Carolina, based 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command in July, and said she brought lessons learned from that experience to the two-day event here.
All Soldiers are required to attend annual SHARP refresher training.
Douglas, who has two years of experience as a social worker, said the SHARP Ambassador Program incorporates the basics of that training, but digs deeper to provide Soldiers passionate about creating positive change in their formations the opportunity to hear from a variety of experts who support the SHARP program.
Over the course of the two-day event, the Soldiers received briefs from military representatives with the Criminal Investigation Division, a Special Victim Counsel with the Judge Advocate General, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, the Inspector General and Equal Opportunity.
After the educational component, the Soldiers worked in groups to create initiatives to influence safety and prevention. Douglas said that success in combatting sexual assault and harassment occurs when junior Soldiers are engaged and passionate.
“They are the eyes and ears of the formation,” the Brooklyn, New York native said. “They are the ones who … are most influential; so, if they are educated, they can influence the people to the left and to the right. We really want that buy-in, because if they believe it then they will have that same conviction to get others to believe it.”
After the groups brainstormed, they presented their initiatives to a panel of SHARP experts and senior leaders, including Col. Fenicia L. Jackson, the chief of staff for the 1st TSC OCP, and Command Sgt. Maj. Phelicea M. Redd, the senior enlisted advisor for the 1st TSC OCP.
“I was really impressed with all of the presentations, and with some of the topics you presented in your discussions today, sometimes I need that at this level,” Jackson told the Soldiers. “I took a lot of notes on the ideas some of you pointed out and you just made a task list for my staff.”
Spc. John J. Ophoven, a chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear specialist assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, said he volunteered to become a SHARP Ambassador because he is passionate about the SHARP program and helping others.
“The SHARP program is important to me because change definitely needs to happen in the Army, the culture hasn’t fully shifted yet,” said the Reservist, who is a Minnesota State Trooper and a volunteer firefighter in his civilian career. “Because I’m a male, I feel there isn’t a strong enough presence of males pushing for change within the ranks. I want to be that change in the Army.”
Ophoven said he wants to be both a voice for males in the Army who have dealt with the stigma and stereotypes relating to males and sexual assault and harassment, and to be there to help anyone who has suffered emotional, mental, and physical harm from as a result of sexual assault or harassment.
“I’m very passionate about helping others,” he said. “I am dedicated to public service and protection. The SHARP Ambassador program is a way for me to reach out to help others in need and to encourage positive change within the ranks.”