JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - The Army's Sexual Harassment Assault Response and Prevention program was designed to prevent incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault before they occur.
The program would not exist without the noncommissioned officers who serve sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and SHARP representatives.
"It takes more than somebody who's just willing to get out there and take care of soldiers to be in this program because it can be mentally draining, and we have to learn how to put that aside and put that soldier first and learn how to not become emotionally involved," said Sgt. 1st Class Shamon Hale, a SARC with the 62nd Medical Brigade, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., and a native of Gastonia, N.C.
Hale and her husband, Staff Sgt. Ronald E. Hale II, a San Diego native and Victim Advocate at 3-2 SBCT, 7th Infantry Division, are both SHARP advocates whose passion for the program is undeniable.
"(The SHARP program) is really important to both of us," said Shamon Hale. "When it comes to taking care of soldiers, we're kind of on the same wave length with that."
Both NCOs have been in their respective positions for more than a year now. That's notable given the time that is often required of advocates and representatives in the SHARP program, and also that Ronald Hale only returned from Afghanistan in November 2012. It is even more noteworthy given the Hales are also parents whose time is divided between the Army, SHARP and their family.
"We have one child, 11 years old. She's grown up in the military all her life so she's familiar with mom or dad deploying, going to school or coming home late," Ronald Hale said.
Even so, the job of a SHARP representative can seem boundless. Both Hales are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"There's no time of the night when you don't respond. You can get a call at any given time. When you take this job you have to realize you're on call. You're there for the soldiers, NCOs and officers," Ronald Hale said.
That kind of dedication to duty requires a family to adapt in order to stay together, which is exactly what the Hales have done.
"We've been doing it for the past 15 years, (and) so it took a whole lot of practice, a whole lot of making sure we have the right plans in place," Shamon Hale said. "We have had instances where we both had to deploy, or one parent had to deploy, or (one of us) got a call and had to go off and do something, but we make sure we have our plans in place."
Even with plans in place it is not easy, but Ronald Hale states that "so far as personal affairs, you have to just manage your time wisely and communicate between the two of you."
Be that as it may, having a strong family background, strong family support and a family care plan in place are key to their family staying strong, said Ronald Hale.
So what is it about such a taxing job that would entice not just one, but both parents to become involved?
"It's important to me because my number one priority is taking care of Soldiers," Shamon Hale said. "I think that if you can volunteer to be in a program to take care of soldiers when they're at one of the lowest points in their life, and to be in that process to help rehabilitate them, that is a feat in itself. For me, it's about making sure that I can help these soldiers in any way that I can get back to where they need to be."
Ronald Hale concurred; stating that he wanted to make a difference within the ranks where sexual assault and harassment is concerned.
"Just getting out there and being a tool for the Army to promote the SHARP program or campaign is a big step in tomorrow's option, because now you have sharper soldiers who know their options, who know to go to, who not to talk to, who know whether they can get counseling or medical services," Ronald Hale said. "You're helping (educate) the chain of command … as well as your soldiers."
Given the emotional and mental intensity of helping victims of sexual crimes, it takes a person of strong character and conviction to be a SHARP representative. The fact that both NCOs exhibit those traits, and manage to keep their marriage strong and their family intact, is testament to their dedication to the victims of such acts as sexual assault and sexual harassment.
"SHARP does work," Shamon Hale said. "We just have to make sure we have the right people in place."
With NCOs like the Hales available to help those who have been victimized, it sounds the right people are already in place.