News: Bystanders Intervention Executive Session
Story by Capt. Chad Ashe
HUNTER ARMY AIRFIELD, Ga. – Leaders gathered for an executive session focused on bystander invention within the Army at 3rd Combat Aviation Brigade conference room May 16 to openly discuss the problems of sexual assault and other issues within unit formations.
Master Sgt. Jeff Fenlason, 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division is part of the Raiders Initiative Group who conducted the class for leaders, which is designed to create an open dialogue about problems within units and how bystanders should involve themselves.
Fenlason explained the intent of the class for all Soldiers within the ranks.
“It’s to introduce the command into what the Bystanders Intervention Program looks like, what the commanding general’s intent is, and to give them an idea of what a seminar will feel like for their Soldiers as their Soldiers go through the process,” said Fenlason.
Fenlason said there are three things his group is doing to initiate positive change within the organization.
“We are trying to get [leaders] to engage their Soldiers in dialogue to focus on culture change inside of their organizations, and to look at developing trust mechanisms in their formations so the Soldiers who are suffering, or are victimized, or potentially need an intervention, move forward,” said Fenlason.
Command Sgt. Maj. J.T. Hall, 3rd Squadron, 17th Cavalry Regiment participated in the class and said that a bystander that does not intervene when a situation warrants it, is as guilty as the aggressor. Hall added that the 3rd Infantry Division Bystander Intervention Program is a program that will help our Army reduce any incident that can be prevented by a bystander.
Hall said because everyone is different in their own way, times to intervene are viewed differently as well, and that apologizing for intervening when it wasn’t warranted is better than letting a wrong go unchallenged.
“Once this program is inculcated in our units and our service members know that they are morally obligated to step in when things are going wrong, we will be a better Army and society,” said Hall.
According to Department of Defense news, there were a reported 5,061 cases of sexual assault for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2013, a 50-percent increase over the previous year. Additionally, Pentagon officials released a report May 15 that says fewer than 1,400 cases of sexual harassment occurred in the military last year.
Fenlason said that with an increase of trust from victim to supervisor that sexual harassment and sexual assault is being properly handled at the unit level, the numbers will decrease.