FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker commanding general, along with other leaders from the Aviation Branch, cut the ribbon to open up the USAACE Training Center in Bldg. 6902 April 8 that now hosts new and improved Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention training.
Maj. Gen. David J. Francis said that the facility in the renovated building is the latest and greatest tool in the center’s fight against sexual assault and harassment within the ranks.
“We all know that sexual assault and sexual harassment are an inside threat to our Army – we cannot allow it to stand,” Francis said. “Part of the way we get after that to the left of those incidents is through training – educating our Soldiers and educating everyone in the chain of command about how we intervene to prevent these things from occurring, and then if they do, how we appropriately respond to these incidents with the utmost care for the victims.
“As we look at the strategic challenges of our Army, SHARP incidents are one of those that erode trust – the trust our Soldiers have in leadership and in each other, the trust (the nation’s) parents have in sending their kids to our all-volunteer force, and the trust that the American people, Congress and everyone else has in us,” he added.
Command Sgt. Maj. James D. Wilson, Aviation Branch command sergeant major, said the facility is also an example of “the boss putting his money where his mouth is.”
“We started talking about this when we first started conducting SHARP Knowledge Quest (training) over in the warrant officer training area,” Wilson said, adding that using that facility was a temporary measure while many students were attending online training during the pandemic. “When the unit that owned that building needed it back as training increased later that year, the boss looked at me and said, ‘No, we’re not doing that – find a place to put them.’ So, we started looking.”
The search led them to Bldg. 6209, which formerly housed the 98th Army “Silver Wings” Band until it deactivated in 2016.
“It was in terrible shape. I think this building was six months from being unusable forever – you can’t let them sit, or they will deteriorate and then be unusable forever,” Wilson said, adding that hard work by Shana Morris, SHARP program manager for USAACE and Fort Rucker; Sgt. 1st Class Philena Perdue, lead sexual assault response coordinator and 1st Aviation Brigade SARC; Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua, Fort Rucker garrison command sergeant major; and the Directorate of Public Works succeeded in creating a world-class training facility.
“Your Soldiers can come here and get out of an environment where they focus on work, and they can focus on this and this only – SHARP, which is plaguing our Army,” he added.
Francis and Wilson, on top of cutting the ribbon on the facility, also recognized Morris and Perdu for their efforts in making the new training center a reality.
“They found this space, they coordinated for it and it was no less than their blood, sweat and tears that went into this thing,” Francis said. “This is a place we can training our Soldiers and leaders to stop this plague that is still prevalent in our Army. It has to stop, and this is where we are going to start the process to stop it. My hat is off to these two leaders for their personal efforts in making this day come to reality.”
The general then awarded Perdue with an Army Commendation Medal and Morris a Civilian Service Commendation Medal.
Morris spoke, as well, saying she and her team of Perdue; Sgt. 1st Class Shane Pomerenke, 110th Avn. Bde. SARC; and Sgt. 1st Class Skyler Thorson, 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group SARC, spent over a year and a half of work getting the facility ready.
“We are so excited,” she said. “With leadership support, we were able to really make this a world-class training facility for the SHARP program. The importance of this building is having all of your service members and civilians come through this building and apply their SHARP knowledge in an interactive way to really test it, so that we can be ready and ahead of the future to prevent any sort of sexual harassment or sexual assault.”
Morris also contrasted how training used to be conducted at Fort Rucker to how it will now be held thanks to the new facility.
“In the past, SHARP training was conducted at the units, typically by slides through PowerPoint, or just conversations,” she said. “Now, we can have people really apply their SHARP knowledge in an interactive and productive way to better help Soldiers and civilian employees understand SHARP even better.”
This advanced training includes the scenario-based I Speak program.
“We have four scenarios where role playing takes place,” Morris said. “This is where we have the Soldiers and civilians apply their knowledge to really practice how to intervene, and step up in order to stop or prevent the incident from happening.
“Then we also have the Knowledge Quest, which is in the back of our training facility,” she added. “These are rooms set up with clues and help test people’s SHARP knowledge – they identify clues to make their way through passages until it’s complete.
“Then they’ll come together at the end and go over some touchpoints and thoughts that will be able to help prepare them to actually apply their knowledge within their unit, or even in off-post situations. Anyone on Fort Rucker, Department of Army civilians can come with their unit, as well, and participate with their Soldiers. This really allows for more of a team environment in having that open dialogue because our civilians are also important in serving our Soldier population.”
The training does meet the annual SHARP training requirement for both Soldiers and civilian employees, Morris added.
“We look forward to everyone coming out and experiencing the SHARP training center,” she said. “When they come, we ask that they sign the mural and write a message to support a survivor of sexual harassment and sexual assault. We also ask that people be open minded when they come here, and they’ll leave more knowledgeable and more ready to interact and prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault.”
For more information on SHARP at Fort Rucker, or about the training available to units, call 255-9897.