Marne Guardian is a new initiative under the 3rd Infantry Division Marne Steady program that focuses on building a community of belonging based on trust, pride, shared values and respect.
Marne Guardian focuses on empowerment and trains junior Soldiers on the policies and resources available to inform their peers, support the command in training, or potentially intervene with matters pertaining to the Sexual Harassment Assault Response Prevention and Equal Opportunity programs, resiliency, and suicide prevention.
“It is an honor being an asset to the Army’s new program,” said Pfc. Gertrude Digue, a course attendee assigned to 3rd Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade, Special Troops Battalion, on Fort Stewart. “Being part of the Marne Guardian program is a privilege and feels rewarding.”
The course lasts five days and the program’s goal is to have at least one certified Marne Guardian in every company, troop and battery across the division. Soldiers who are selected to become Marne Guardians are chosen because they were seen as influential and have the leadership skills that are needed for the course.
“We came up with the Marne Guardian program to get junior Soldiers to assist at their level,” said Robert M. Lewis, SHARP Program Manager at Fort Stewart/Hunter Army Airfield. “We have Equal Opportunity Advisers and other certified program experts at the brigade level, but when you’re a private in the motor pool, we know you can feel very far removed and it takes a lot of courage to walk into the brigade headquarters seeking help.”
Marne Guardian is a leadership program with a lot of the initial planning for the framework coming from researching previous SHARP Ambassador programs. Marne Guardian was developed to holistically address behaviors and underlying issues experienced by Soldiers and find a way to mitigate them at the lowest levels.
“The Marne Guardians have a huge role,” said Spc. Daniel Carroll, a pilot course attendee assigned to 3rd Infantry Division Artillery, on Fort Stewart, Georgia. “We are supporting our fellow peers and guiding them.”
Approximately 106 Guardians are required for 3rd ID to meet the one Marne Guardian per company minimum. Thirty Soldiers were trained during the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2021 as part of the pilot program. On Oct. 15, 2021, the program graduated its first official class of 24.
“Being a Marne Guardian is an honor,” said Pfc. Alexandria Waldron, a Soldier assigned to 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade, 3rd ID on Fort Stewart. “Getting to work hands-on with the SHARP and EO programs and having the opportunity to go out, speak to peers about more opportunities, is nice to be a help for the Army.”
According to program managers, the course empowers junior Soldiers with the skills necessary to identify, prevent and intervene against sexual assault/harassment and instills discipline, good order, Army and cultural values. Although there are SHARP resources already in place, the Marne Guardian course allows junior enlisted Soldiers to be a peer-level tool to add to their list of resources. The Marne Guardian course is restarted every other month and if a Soldier wants to become a Marne Guardian, reaching out to their chain of command is the first step.
Roger L. Taylor, a 3rd ID SHARP instructor, stated the organization wanted to have a program where peers can speak freely among themselves. Marne Guardians will not be official victim advocates, but will have the common knowledge to assist with needs of other Soldiers.
Over the five day course, the Guardian students are presented with a variety of topics and resources. Throughout Marne Guardian, the students are reminded that they are not Equal Opportunity Advisors or Victim Advocates, but they are provided context, perspective and resources to assist peers.
Spc. Logan Weatherford, one of the recent attendees assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 3rd ID Artillery, thinks the Marne Guardian program is more of a way to spread influence to the lower ranks that might not yet be fully familiar with the Army. He feels that the division is making sure teams work cohesively.
The Marne Guardian program employs peer-to-peer training to encourage leadership among junior soldiers. The Marne Guardian course begins by fostering discussion among attendees to define what the SHARP program is and what it isn’t. The course then shifts into a overview of the EO program and identifying and intervening in a positive manner when negative behaviors such as bullying and discrimination occurs.
“We wanted to give young Soldiers another outlet if they don’t feel comfortable talking to their EO or SHARP representative,” said Taylor. “That way, that battle buddy, that Marne Guardian, can be a pillar and help them seek the help they need.”
After completing all of the course requirements, the students receive a Certificate of Achievement signed by the 3rd ID Commanding General. The Certificate of Achievement not only signifies that they are empowered to make a difference for their commands, but the certificates can be added to the Soldiers Enlisted Record Brief/Official Military Personnel File and is worth five promotion points.
Aside from promotion points, Marne Guardian graduates gain experiences that help them become better leaders and set examples for others to emulate, enhancing others within their influence.
“I believe that the Marne Guardian program is going to make Soldiers trust each other more,” said Weatherford. “I believe the Army needs that.”