USARAK Soldiers get SHARP on sexual assault

United States Army Alaska
Story by Sachel Harris

Date: 01.11.2016
Posted: 01.14.2016 16:27
News ID: 186321
USARAK inaugural SHARP NCO summit

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska - From beginning to end, the inaugural U.S. Army Alaska NCO SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Awareness and Reporting Program) Summit at the Frontier Theater here Jan. 11 was unfiltered, honest and provided a harsh look at sexual misconduct in the military.

The summit provided a forum for noncommissioned officers in a variety of leadership positions to discuss victim services, offender accountability and share best practices in combating sexual harassment and sexual assault, ultimately encouraging a candid discussion among NCOs at every level. 

“It is my hope that these NCOs are really inspired to change the culture,” said USARAK Command Master Sgt. Terry Gardner. “I hope our NCOs will be able to affect our lower enlisted Soldiers and be the sounding board and advocate they need.”

Sexual assault response coordinators, victim advocates and unit leaders from around USARAK joined guest speakers for presentations and open mic sessions. The open mic sessions focused on raising awareness and understanding victim support services, the investigative and legal process, a survivor's perspective, prevention and ways NCOs can play a role in effecting change.

“We have so many Soldiers that want to do the right thing, but they don’t know what right looks like,” said Sgt. Maj. Stephen Bowens, sergeant major of Headquarters Department of the Army SHARP Program. “I’m hoping our NCOs walk away from this today more educated and more empowered to hold people accountable no matter what their rank is.”

Among the guest speakers at the summit was Monique Ferrell, director, Headquarters Department of the Army SHARP Program Office at the Pentagon. She too emphasized the need for a change in culture in order to eliminate sex crimes among the military workforce.

"How can we consider ourselves the greatest fighting force on earth when there are incidents of sexual offenses going on in our ranks," she asked. "We must view sexual predators and perpetrators as insider threats that bring great damage to the Army team. They destroy our professional image and take away the trust of American families who send us their sons, daughters and loved ones."

The SHARP director also discussed how new Soldiers come into the Army with varied sets of values, including a skewed view of what is considered acceptable social behavior. Long-time troops have prolonged past practices of "hazing, horseplay and locker room antics" that disregard human dignity and proper conduct. She continued to emphasize that in both of these situations, leader intervention is vital.

“That is why we rely on you as NCOs to know what right looks like and set the example,” she said to the crowd.

Ferrell also spoke briefly about the "Not in My Squad" initiative Dailey is now promoting as the SMA. It's all about taking responsibility in one's "realm of authority," she explained. It pushes the prevention of sexual harassment and assault down to the junior levels where even lower-enlisted personnel can feel empowered to correct the behavior of those around them.

"Some may think that this is just another slogan and that's a perception we're working to change," Ferrell said. "Not in my Squad is a call to action, and it's working. Awareness and bystander intervention is spreading, and we hope it will even transition to the civilian ranks who will also stand up and say 'not on my team' and 'not in my office.' It all goes back to the total cultural change needed to fix this problem."

The summit is also being held at Fort Wainwright.

The USARAK SHARP office is located in the USARAK Headquarters building in room 372. A 24-hour victim hotline is also available at 907-384-7272.