FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Academy conducted a pilot training workshop for ten Sexual Harassment / Sexual Assault Fusion Directors and Deputy Directors Feb. 28 to March 9 at Fort Leavenworth to inform and educate the newest leaders in the Army’s fight to eliminate these corrosive behaviors from our Army.
The new course, which the Army SHARP Academy designed, developed and executed, is a response to an Army Execution Order that established a new pilot program to stand up Fusion Directorates at key locations across the Army. The course itself is part of the Fusion Directorate pilot, and the lessons learned from this initial iteration of training and the implementation of the new fusion approach to victim care will inform future training curriculum.
“This new Fusion Directorate pilot program is aimed at providing a central point of support that enables synchronization and integration between the critical stakeholders involved in providing support to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment,” said Rebecca Sims, the training development lead for the pilot course. “The goal is to provide greater independence and support to unit Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates allowing them to focus their efforts more fully on victims and improve the quality of care.”
Representatives from Fort Irwin, Fort Bragg, Fort Riley, Fort Sill, Schofield Barracks, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, and the U.S. Army Reserve 99th Readiness Division attended the inaugural Fusion Directorate Course. In addition, representatives of the Army’s People First Task Force also attended the workshop and provided valuable insight and instruction on Fusion Directorate specific content and procedures.
Col. Erica Cameron of the Army People First Task Force and lead for the Fusion Directorate pilot explained that Fusion Directorates provide a victim-centered model aimed to increase accountability, transparency and efficiency by coordinating care providers, investigators and criminal prosecutors under a single directorate. “The Fusion Directorates will enable victim advocates and other support providers to maximize their efforts and keep victims better informed at each step of an emotional and complex process,” she said.
Barbara Garber, Licensed Specialist Clinical Social Work (LSCSW) and Fusion Director/Lead Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) for First Infantry Division at Fort Riley Kansas was one of the first ten SHARP professionals to participate in the Fusion Directorate pilot. She believes that the Fusion Directorates will improve the Army’s ability to provide the best care for victims.
“The Fusion is about inclusivity and a team approach,” Garber said. “In assigning the VA/SARC as part of a cadre to the Fusion Directorate, a victim will have more options to incorporate the no wrong door approach and may feel more comfortable to report outside their brigade [or unit of assignment].”
Sgt. 1st Class Wesley Buhr, Deputy Director for the Pilot Program and the current Assistant SHARP Program Manager for Headquarters, 25th Infantry Division and U.S. Army Hawaii, believes the new training provided at the SHARP Academy builds on the foundation of training already received by Sexual Assault Response Coordinators and Victim Advocates.
“I gained better insight on how to coordinate with multiple agencies in support of a common goal,” Buhr said. “It also helped sharpen my executive level communication skills when working with Army senior leaders.”
Jodee Watters, Director of the Fusion Directorate for United States Army Hawaii, said the training and the new pilot program would improve her ability to provide support to victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment. “I am always seeking ways to improve care for those we serve,” Watters said. “I appreciate the ability to attend a course that was set up specifically to give us success with our mission. We attended before launch and that is invaluable to the way ahead.”
According to Sims, the SHARP Academy had about 14 weeks to plan, design and develop the pilot course. “Typically it will take at least 12 months to develop a new course,” she said.
Sims said the SHARP Academy surveyed the students on each day of the class to get feedback on how they felt the class was going and to assess the topics covered.
“Overall, the survey results were really good and the students felt the material taught was appropriate and would help them to be more successful in their jobs at the Fusion Directorate sites,” she said.
The SHARP Academy is using the data from survey results to modify the training slightly for the next iteration of the course, which will tentatively occur in first quarter of FY 23.