JBSA-Fort Sam Houston –
As part of the Army-wide Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention Stand-Down, the Soldiers and civilians of U.S. Army North (Fifth Army) gathered at the Fort Sam Houston Theater June 26 to focus on one of the most troubling issues facing the military today.
The training conducted by Army North was performed throughout the Army; the Department of Defense tasked all Army units to conduct a SHARP stand-down day by Monday to combat a rise in sexual assaults and harassments across the armed forces.
"When someone steals someone's dignity or respect by sexually harassing them or assaulting them, you ought to be infuriated," said Maj. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy commanding general, U.S. Army North, who spoke to those gathered with stone-cold seriousness. "It is up to every one of us to stop it. It is unacceptable.
"Anyone who (assaults or harasses) should be purged from our ranks. You are part of something bigger - the American people trust us."
Stopping sexual harassment and assault is the job of every Soldier and civilian in the Army, said Wiggins, but it has to start with leaders.
"Commanders have a tough job," said Sgt. 1st Class Adam Mayo, equal opportunity advisor and program manager for Army North. "When it comes to sexual assault and harassment, it is their job to hold people accountable and to let people know that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. If we don't do that, then all we are doing is talking."
The misperception that all the Army is doing is talking has been heard from many different sources; however, the fact remains that from the president on down, it is crystal clear the people who commit these acts will be found and dealt with immediately.
Army North mandated all sections to come together independently and discuss the Army's policy to help combat sexual assault and harassment here.
Sgt. 1st Class La Trice Jefferson serves as the primary Army North sexual assault response coordinator and Sgt. 1st Class Carla Pittman as the primary battalion victim's advocate.
"We are the first responders," Pittman said. "We are the individuals who give information to a victim that has been sexually assaulted or sexually harassed. We are there to support them and get them to where they need to go."
Sgt. Maj. Linda Kessinger, Army North personnel section, serves as the Army North SHARP program manager.
"If you need help, you can go to any of us," Jefferson said.
"It doesn't matter if they are not in your company. Go to the person you feel most comfortable with."
Addison Elliot, sexual assault response coordinator for the 470th Military Intelligence Brigade, who also serves as the sexual assault prevention and response trainer at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, was the featured speaker for the event. She discussed the types of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
"The easiest way to respond to sexual harassment is by the direct approach," Elliot said. "Use an on-the-spot correction."
The Soldiers who attended the training said they found it very insightful.
"I thought it was informative," said Spc. Norma Torres, a supply specialist in Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Army North. "I especially found the main speaker good. I liked how she kept everyone involved."
Training events such as this are vital to address the problem head on, said Lt. Col. Zoltan Krompecher, commander, Army North HHBn.
"Pick up a magazine, click a mouse or turn on the television and it is easy to see why this type of training is important," he said.
"Collectively and individually, we will not tolerate sexual harassment or assault in our Army," Krompecher said.
"Every individual is empowered, regardless of rank, to stop harassment before it starts. Our formations hold no place for sexual predators."
Soldiers who have been the victim of sexual harassment or assault are encouraged to contact either their SARP or unit victim advocate.
Civilian employees are encouraged to contact their equal opportunity/equal employment opportunity specialists.
People can also call the Army Sexual Harassment Hotline at 800-267-9964.