CAMP KOSCUISZKO, Poland – The U.S. Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office's acting director and staff visited Operation Atlantic Resolve's military leaders to discuss the Army's SHARP program and resource needs for forward deployed soldiers on NATO’s Eastern flank, Nov. 6 - 9, 2023.
“The overall goal of the SAPRO director’s tour is to provide a SHARP program infrastructure for areas supporting OAR,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Bridgette Simmons, sexual assault and response coordinator for V Corps.
Simmons escorted Dr. Nate Galbreath, acting director of SAPRO, Air Force Col. Tom Esser, SAPRO chief of staff for U.S. Army Europe and Africa, and U.S. Army V Corps SHARP representatives on an extensive tour of multiple North and South forward operating sites. They engaged with key leaders to address specific challenges and solutions related to the SHARP program and assessed wellness facilities for deployed soldiers serving in the areas of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
Galbreath is the chief scientific, program, and policy leader for the DOD Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office located at the Pentagon, Washington D.C.
“Lots of changes are happening throughout the Department of Defense due to The Independent Review Commission’s findings on sexual assault and response in the military,” Galbreath said.
According to the DOD, in July 2021, at the direction of President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, a 90-day Independent Review Commission on sexual assault in the military took bold action to address sexual assault and harassment in the force. The IRC recommended adjustments to accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and victim care and support.
“I am out here because I am interested in understanding what it’s like to field victim assistance in an operational setting and find what we need to be effective and helpful,” Galbreath said.
Through this battlefield circulation, his staff collected information about providing service members with full-time SHARP personnel and resources to offer stable, continuous, and thorough support systems, including victim advocacy, medical examinations, behavioral health assistance, confidential reporting procedures, and investigations, Simmons said.
“The Eastern European theater is young,” Simmons said. “Currently, forward deployed forces are communicating with host nations to establish which locations will be enduring.”
Soldier care personnel and facilities are less mature than in areas such as Germany, Korea, or Kuwait.
“One of the significant changes is the prevention workforce,” Galbreath said.
The SAPRO director’s visit evaluated what the force will need for human resources. SHARP and victim advocate personnel are often attached to the rotational units; some can work full-time, and some are qualified with SHARP or victim advocate collateral duty status.
By the IRC recommendations, operating sites will have full-time SARC and victim advocates, and the SHARP program will rely less on collateral duty personnel. This important initiative will ensure consistent quality of care for victims as units rotate in and out of their areas of operation.
“If permanent party SHARP staff is already on the ground, the processes facilitating the victim are in place," Simmons said.
Another benefit of relieving rotational units from the responsibility of bringing full-time SHARP and victim advocate assets on deployments is keeping the integrity of a unit’s home station SHARP program.
“We are working to put experienced full-time people down range,” Galbreath said.
The SAPRO director said he is confident the tour will give valuable insight into factors promoting the SHARP program’s success.