Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention professionals across the military gathered for a joint SHARP Training and Education Solutions Workshop Nov. 19-21 at the SHARP Academy.
Though it was the third annual workshop for the SHARP Academy, for the first time it was open to all branches of service.
“All the services are sharing our approaches (to SHARP training) with the goal of identifying and sharing our lessons learned and best practices so that we can learn from each other and take good aspects of how they do it … and see if it’ll apply to our own efforts,” said Col. Christopher Engen, SHARP Academy director.
The Department of Defense Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office sets guidelines for all the services to follow, and then each service execute them in its own ways, Engen said.
Eugene Purvis, deputy chief of Basic Officer Leadership Course at the Center of Initial Military Training in Fort Eustis, Va., said he thought bringing the services together to talk about SHARP training practices was a good idea.
“Maybe they are doing something or they have some ideas that (the Army) doesn’t have that we can work on, or something that we’re doing that we can share with them,” Purvis said. “In the Army we have preached across the board, ‘One Army. One Standard.’ … If you got one training (for all services), you’ve got one standard, and I think that is a good thing.”
The workshop began with briefings from DoD SAPRO representative Suzanne Holroyd, senior prevention program manager, who spoke about upcoming changes to SHARP training. Holroyd also asked for feedback from the services about the timeframe it takes to incorporate new policies into their training. Then, representatives from each branch of service briefed attendees on their service’s programs.
The last two days included working group discussions addressing a memo from the secretary of Defense and DoD SAPRO to begin developing prevention-focused training topics and ideas at the junior officer and junior enlisted levels.
Engen gave the brief on behalf of the Army. He talked about how the Army satisfies DoD requirements through learning that occurs in schools, units and organizations across the Army, and how the Army prepares its sexual assault and response coordinators and its victim advocates.
“We’re the only service that has a dedicated academy, so our SARCs and VAs within the Army come to the six-week course that we deliver here in this building,” Engen said.
Cindy Stewart, senior Sexual Assault Prevention and Response program analyst for the Navy, which is based out of Arlington, Va., gave the brief on behalf of the Navy.
Stewart talked about how the Navy’s training program develops as sailors advance through the ranks into leadership roles. She also emphasized the Navy’s efforts to create a “culture of excellence.”
“We’re trying to look at different destructive behaviors and see how those destructive behaviors are interrelated. We’re trying to make sure that, when we’re using people’s time, they are getting the most out of their time,” Stewart said. “We still have problems and issues with sexual assault and sexual harassment. It is not going away.
“We’re putting a lot of money and time and energy and resources into these programs. Congress, and the American people, expect more from the services. They expect us to have a higher standard, live to a higher standard, but then we’re a product of society, so we have to undo,” she said. “We get (the service members) after the first 18 years of their life, so it is about whatever training and what we can do different to shift that thinking and make sure people are living and working in a respectful environment that is promoting trust and dignity and respect.”
Susi Eisenbarth, Center for Army Profession and Leadership instructional design team lead, agreed with the Navy’s mindset.
“At CAPL, our focus is on leader development and what type of Army values are important and how do we actually explain those to our soldiers, and how do soldiers live by the Army values,” Eisenbarth said. “If you have a positive climate in an organization you then shift automatically to, hopefully, less sexual assault and less sexual harassment because it all goes back to if you have a toxic environment that can lead to damaging behaviors in a unit.”
Meghan Root, education and training manager for U.S. Air Force Headquarters’ Integrated Resilience Office at the Pentagon, provided the Air Force brief.
Root talked about training for SARCs and VAs as well as training across the force, and training projects currently in development. One such program is the Cadet Healthy Personal Skills program (CHiPS) at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
“One of the benefits that we have as the military that other settings don’t have is we do have policies and senators and leadership that takes this issue very seriously and says, ‘You have to do something about it,’” Root said. “(All the services) have the same mission and that is to help survivors and decrease perpetration of sexual violence and educate folks on the impact of sexual violence on our mission as well as our culture as a whole.
“There is still so much work to be done, but we’re not alone in doing it,” she said. “We all really care. We just have different approaches to it, and learning from each other is always beneficial.”
Christina Gonzalez, prevention and response assistant branch head of the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters’ Behavioral Programs in Quantico, Va., provided the Marine Corps brief.
Gonzalez said the Marine Corps has three different types of SARCs, including command SARCs, installation SARCs and force SARCs.
The Marine Corps also provides rank-specific annual training and pre-command workshops.
“We do facilitate a training with role-plays and breakout groups with colonel mentors who mentor the new lieutenant colonels and the sergeants major,” Gonzalez said. “Then we have (subject-matter experts) and victim legal services there, and we provide scenarios that walk them through prevention.”
The Marine Corps also provides an evaluation tool that allows the Marines to scan a QR code to evaluate trainings.
“The world keeps changing. Social norms keep changing. Our generations keep changing,” Gonzalez said. “We have to continue to catch up with popular culture because there is a lot of conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault everywhere you go. If we can’t keep up, or at least try to keep up, we get behind.
“Being able to continue to develop and get new ways of teaching the same things, it really benefits people on having more respect and that enhances readiness, that enhances deployability,” she said. “Ultimately, for me, I see it as like a mettle of international security because a ready force makes a safer world.”