Soldiers gain SHARP tools to fight sex harassment, assault
TORII STATION, Okinawa - "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."
Those words from Maj. Gen. Michael T. Harrison, commander of U.S. Army Japan and I Corps (Forward), echoed throughout Kadena Air Base's Keystone Theater during 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. The training took place Aug. 20 through Sept. 1 at the Department of Defense Dependents Schools Pacific headquarters.
During a visit to the class, Col. Sheila Bryant, commander of the 10th Regional Support Group, stressed to the Soldiers that they have a huge responsibility within the command in regard to preventing sexual harassment and assault.
"We're holding people accountable; we should not let our brothers and sisters get hurt this way," said Bryant. "Challenge yourself; it's really about having the courage to do what's right."
The Army's current campaign to combat sexual assault is the I. A.M. Strong campaign, which encourages all Soldiers to get involved before an assault occurs. The acronym empowers Soldiers to Intervene, Act, and Motivate.
Staff Sgt. David Ladd, a Patriot missile operator assigned to 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery (Regiment), will serve as his unit's victim advocate. He is assigned to one of the largest Army battalions on Okinawa within the 10th RSG.
"I know it's out there; [SHARP training] gives me the tools to be successful," said Ladd. "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."
The goal of SHARP is clear: eradicate sexual harassment and assault from the ranks by providing Soldiers and Department of Defense civilians tools, such as awareness, prevention and education. The key component of SHARP 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, instructors reminded the Soldiers of the importance of working as a team to combat sexual harassment and assault, and that those acts "go directly against U.S. Army values and 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," said Ladd. "To join and have to deal with similar things like they did in the civilian world is a bad deal."
To find out more about the Army's SHARP program, visit www.sexualassault.army.mil.