Thank you SGM (Tom) Gills (G-1 SGM) for that great introduction.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for the opportunity to take a few minutes to talk to you today.
To all the general officers, senior commanders, fellow sergeants majors, Army civilians, and of course, our Soldiers who are here today who took part in this forum. You will make a difference.
It's truly an honor to be here to talk about something that is important to all of us; something that can destroy the morale and cohesion of a unit faster than anything else you can imagine, and that's Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault.
Now, the battalion and brigade leadership here today have shown the will and dedication to stop sexual harassment and assault. We have made progress, but we are far from the goals we set for ourselves and we have a long road to travel. And this progress cannot stop until we have reached our goal of having a culture that does not condone any type of sexual harassment or sexual assault. I challenge each of you to go back to your units and spread the knowledge you have gained here, and while you listen to the briefs and conduct your breakout sessions this week, I want you to ask yourself three questions:
1) Do you foster an environment or atmosphere in you unit to Intervene, Act and Motivate'
2) Are you the consummate professional, always living and upholding the Army Values and our Warrior Ethos'
3) Could you put a stop to sexual harassment or assault if it involved one of your good friends or peers'
At this point, you've all heard the numbers... you've all read the statistics... and you've listened to lots of presentations and briefings and they have all told you what it going to take to fix our problems around sexual assault and sexual harassment. You know and I know that this program has made a huge difference for us as an Army. SHARP has teamed with BOSS at venues across the Army to reach a wider audience and our more junior Soldiers. This program has given us the tools to succeed, but now each of you has to engrain this into our culture. Our Army is an Army of action. We do things... so what are you going to do to change the culture in our Army.
I know we are still far away from our goal because sexual harassment and assault reports come across my desk almost every day. I read about senior NCOs sexually assaulting their own subordinates. Forget about years of service or marital status, some of these NCOs have harassed their subordinates for years. Years in which any of this senior NCO's, the standard bearer of our Army, could have stepped forward and said, "What you are doing is wrong. You are not living the Army Values." Years in which a subordinate could have pulled this Soldier aside or his commander aside and said something. Years of suffering... However, someone turned a blind eye. Someone looked away from a deficiency. Someone did not enforce standards and discipline.
And this is not even the most extreme case. The Army has made a stand. We have said that sexual assault and sexual harassment are not in keeping with our Army Values. Non commissioned Officers are the backbone of the Army. We are the standard bearer... we enforce standards. So why is this acceptable' We say we need to Intervene, Act, and Motivate. Noncommissioned Officers, isn't that what we do for our Commands' I need each of you to carry this message forward, and make the fight against sexual harassment and assault a top priority in developing leaders and supporting our Army.
In order to meet the Army's strategic goals, we must embrace a cultural change in the Army. This change not only signifies a change in reporting procedures or training, but an overall view -- from all members of the Army -- that sexual harassment and sexual assault is morally and ethically wrong. This type of conduct is not unacceptable.
Over the last year, SHARP has given you interactive videos and live-action vignettes in order to encourage our Soldiers to intervene and act if they see incidents and behaviors that can lead to sexual assault. But this interaction and this training can only go so far. Representatives from SHARP can come to your post, camp or station and present tactics and procedures to stop. But nothing will change if there is an atmosphere of tolerance in your units.
Ask yourself, is there anything about leadership that would foster perception that you or I would tolerate such behavior. This perception can be a signal to a subordinate that it is okay because of your actions to perpetrate sexual assault and sexual harassment on another individual. The key to fixing this atmosphere is continuously engaged leadership. Take the time to reflect on what's happening in your organization and what your Soldiers are doing. Engaged leadership means you talk to your Soldiers about sexual harassment and assault. You also have an internal dialogue. You tell them that this type of criminal activity is not condoned in your unit. You tell them there is no stigma or reprisal for reporting harassment or assault. You tell them this behavior is not in line with the Army Values, and you will not tolerate it. We need this commitment from each of you if we are going to engage in this discussion and this action.
Some of you might say that the way to fix this is through professional military education, and I agree that this a portion of this fits into our PME. But this education alone is not enough alone. The standard, average master sergeant with about 20 years may spend about as four months in our professional military education. We are not going to solve this in school. We are going to solve this in the unit, in the activity, in the directorate, at the post, camp and station, with staff sergeants and sergeants and civilians, being as they always are, the tip of the spear of change in our Army. That's how we are going to solve this problem. With senior leaders ensuring constantly that we remain vigilant and focused on those folks who have the type of behavior that are against the Army and we do something about it.
The second question I asked you was about Army Values, and whether you lived them every day. For most of you, that is an easy question with an even easier answer. Of course you do. The respect we have as senior leaders come from our adherence to the Army Values. This kind of respect does not happen overnight, but a lifetime of living and breathing the Army Values. But what happens when you sacrifice one or some or all of your values... do you lose credibility with your unit' Of course you do. I believe once your values are compromised, the respect and trust breaks down. Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage are not just words, and not just a group of individual ideals, but a collective ethic that describes who we are and what we're about. So, the compromise of just one value jeopardizes years of hard work and dedication to the Army. We can't accept that it compromises our values and think that it's okay and attribute it to nine years and we're tired. We can't accept that.
We use the term the line in the sand. There is a line in the sand... there's a line in this room. When you step across, you compromise your values. There has to be something that holds these folks accountability.
We cannot expect our Soldiers to live by the Army Values when their leaders and mentors are not upholding the standard. We can't say the young sergeant or staff sergeant is doing something wrong when their leader has done something wrong himself. These values form the framework of our profession, and are nonnegotiable. Values, plus the Warrior Ethos, guides the way we are suppose conduct ourselves as an Army. We must be the uncompromising standard bearer for our Army. I challenge you to not only live up the Army Values, but ensure your Soldiers are living them and have the discussion on what the values mean at each echelon in the chain of command and through the NCO support channel. We need to have that discussion. We do a great job in basic training and initial military training to inculcate Army Values. We need to do a better job to talk about what the values mean to a 1SG, a platoon sergeant, a captain, a major, and what situations they may be in.
The final question was about standing up to a peer to stop harassment, before it becomes an assault. Again, I am sure each of you has the means and will to pull a subordinate aside. But what about a peer' What about a superior' Do you have the personal courage to look your fellow platoon sergeant, or first sergeant, or company commander or battalion commander, and say that is not okay. That is not in line with our Army profession. That's hard, but it takes action to affect change. It's up to you to foster that environment where leaders not only look down, but look left and right and be an agent of cultural change.
This is not an easy change, and it is going to take time. But we have the will and the means to make this Army a safer place for all of our Soldiers... a place where Soldiers feel safe because they know they are part of an Army team, where everyone watches out for each other. This is not a dream and with your engaged leadership, it will come a reality. And at the end of the day, are you going to walk the talk or just talk the talk. Leaders, take charge. Thank you and Army Strong!