TORII STATION, Japan (Sept. 6, 2012) -- "It's a problem within our ranks that has to stop, it's an issue within the ranks and it will destroy us from inside. Remember weekends, alcohol and barracks."
Those words from Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, commanding general, U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward), echoed throughout Kadena's Keystone Theater at a recent town hall meeting for Soldiers on Okinawa.
Harrison's remarks came at a time where more than 30 Soldiers on Okinawa were receiving training on the basics of the Army's Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program, or SHARP. This important initiative began Aug. 20 and concluded Sept. 1 at the classroom facilities at the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Pacific headquarters.
At a time where the U.S. armed forces is making changes due to budget constraints, the U.S. Army remains committed to the health of its Soldiers and family members and remains vigilant in its fight against this silent manace.
Col. Sheila Bryant, commander, 10th Regional Support Group, paid a visit to the class participants letting them know they have a huge responsibility within the command.
"We're holding people accountable. We should not let our brothers and sisters get hurt this way; challenge yourself, it's really about having the courage to do what's right," said Bryant.
The Army's current campaign to combat sexual assault is the Intervene, Act, and Motivate, or I. A.M., STRONG campaign, which encourages all Soldiers to get involved before an assault occurs.
Staff Sgt. David Ladd, patriot missile operator, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery (Regiment), will serve as a unit victim advocate. He is assigned to one of the largest Army battalions on Okinawa within the 10th Regional Support Group.
"I know it's out there. This gives me the tools to be successful, but the key is, if it doesn't look right, get involved, be intrusive. It's better to have someone upset with you at that point than something happening later," added Ladd.
The goal of SHARP is clear. Eradicate sexual harassment and assault from the ranks by providing Soldiers and Department of Defense civilians valuable tools such as awareness, prevention and education. The key component is to change a culture within the U.S. Army that eliminates all precursors to sexual assault and sexual harassment such as sexual innuendos and harassment.
Toward the end of the course, the instructors from the Department of the Army G-1 informed 10th RSG Soldiers to remind their fellow Soldiers that we remain a team and the acts go directly against U.S. Army values, destroy teamwork, unit cohesion and trust.
"I served as a recruiter and people join the military to get away from issues like abuse and other things to be a part of something bigger and better than their problems. To join and have to deal with similar things like they did in the civilian world is a bad deal," said Ladd.