FORT LEE, Va. — As the Army continues work toward systemic improvement of its Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program, command teams across Fort Lee gathered to discuss issues relevant to the program in-person at the annual Combined Arms Support Command (CASCOM)-Fort Lee SHARP Summit Wednesday at Larkin Hall.
In the wake of Army Directive 2022-13 (Reforms to Counter Sexual Harassment/Sexual Assault in the Army) — which took effect this fall and is designed to help remove potential barriers to reporting — leaders talked about how they can best engage with their Soldiers on these sensitive and important issues.
“The SHARP program is driven by policy and law,” said Col. Lawrence Burns, director of the U.S. Army SHARP Academy at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., who was the event’s guest speaker. “Now, at the unit level, we have prevention, response and training; those are the things that the unit commanders are responsible for. That’s what leaders can affect at the unit level.”
The summit provided a venue for leaders to share ideas and educate one another through conversation, while also engaging with SHARP experts like Burns for clarification and context.
Leaders listened attentively and with a sense of immediacy and import, as the Army’s SHARP program has been established as one of the most highly visible and discussed military programs in U.S. media and legislature for well over a decade.
“There is no time to figure it out after it happens,” Burns said. “Response actions are pretty well prescribed by policy, by law. There are timelines, and you have to execute. It is focused on taking care of the victim.”
Response, of course, was just one area of focus at the summit, and this year’s theme was “Prevention Starts with You.”
“We are dedicating a lot of organizational energy and effort, and I am asking [Fort Lee leaders] to do the same in [their] formations, to ensure that we can prevent sexual harassment and sexual assault,” said Maj. Gen. Mark T. Simerly, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general.
Simerly encouraged leaders to practice engaged leadership, executing through presence, so they could best understand their people and help create a culture and climate of discipline and respect.
He asked leaders to share how they engage with subordinates. The ensuing discussion of best practices included regular listening sessions, an open-door policy, and a team-building program to name a few.
Soldiers of Alpha Company, 16th Ordnance Battalion and Bravo Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion acted out SHARP scenarios to illustrate issues relevant to lower-enlisted personnel and to further spark discussion among the leaders.
Guest speaker Mark T. Harris, a SHARP Prevention Specialist for Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Eustis, Va., asked leaders to take a self-assessment to examine how well they know the SHARP program, especially in light of the recent doctrinal changes to policy.
As the Army makes incremental improvements to its SHARP program, it is imperative that leaders are fully aware, so they can take full advantage of opportunities to educate their subordinates— to best inform the force and establish a healthy climate— ultimately leading to fewer cases of sexual assault and harassment.
“The recommitment, the reshaping, even the reform in our SHARP measures are indications of our Army’s intent to eradicate those behaviors, harassment and assault,” Simerly said.