Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Week takes center stage at Humphreys

U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Marcellus
U.S. Army photo by Spc. Matthew Marcellus

Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Week takes center stage at Humphreys

by Spc. Matthew Marcellus
USAG Humphreys

CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – Effectively raising awareness and discussion of the Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program is a critical component of a comprehensive effort to address the underlying issues and destructive effects of sexual assault and harassment in the Army.

Soldiers and community members from across U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys and Eighth Army joined together to help raise awareness of the SHARP program, during the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Week (SAAPW) here, from April 26 – 29, in which numerous educational, discussion-based, and active events promoting SHARP took place.

This awareness outreach reflects Eighth Army's continued dedication to improving the SHARP program, advocacy for greater education, and assurance that victims receive proper care and consideration.

“Eighth Army has taken a real close look at how we can improve our program and has enacted several changes,” said Lt. Gen. Willard M. Burleson III, the commanding general of Eighth Army. “First, Eighth Army combines sexual assault review boards so that I personally review the support and care provided to survivors of sexual assault, regardless of unit. Next, this year's SHARP Summit was focused on educating leaders and SHARP professionals. During the event, they received training on the program and response methods, and they were able to hear stories firsthand from survivors of sexual assault. Lastly, either I or one of my deputy commanding generals personally speak at every sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) and victim advocate (VA) credentialing course. During these speaking sessions, the SARCs and VAs hear about the importance of the role they fill and my expectations of them while performing their duties.”

The BOSS SAPW included both Men’s and Women’s Mentorship Programs, SHARP 101 classes, a question and answer discussion with a panel of subject matter experts and a public reading and discussion of the Fort Hood Independent Review with Command Sgt. Maj. Robert H. Cobb, the senior enlisted advisor for Eighth Army. The week concluded with a Take Back the Night 5k Glow Run in which hundreds of participants joined to run and march for greater SHARP awareness.

“The idea for BOSS to host a SAAPW came from our BOSS Representatives requesting more information on SHARP and the Fort Hood Report,” said Spc. Ian Holmes, the Humphreys BOSS President and a CH-47 helicopter repairer, assigned to USAG Humphreys. “The SHARP Program is a growing interest amongst Junior Enlisted Soldiers here, so it was crucial that we acted upon it.”

A goal of the BOSS SAAPW and the coordinated Humphreys advocacy for SHARP awareness is the change of the underlying culture in which SHARP issues persist within the Army.

“Culture change can’t happen if the lowest levels of an organization aren’t part of the plan,” said Burleson. “Junior leaders must cultivate a culture of dignity and respect within their teams with honest discussions, counseling and mentorship, and respectful behavior that creates spaces where people don’t have fear for their safety. At the individual level, treating others with respect is the first step in stopping sexual harassment and assault. Ask yourself, if you saw something that you didn’t agree with happening to someone you care about, would you let it continue?”

The ability of the Humphreys BOSS team to host the SAAPW is especially noteworthy, as the group is primarily organized under Soldier leadership, demonstrating that calls for awareness and action persist across all echelons.

“The majority of the BOSS Program is comprised of junior enlisted Soldiers,” said Spc. Austin Gano, the Humphreys BOSS Vice-President and a patriot fire control enhanced operator assigned to USAG Humphreys. “Providing them with as many tools as possible to help them protect themselves and their peers is essential to their safety, the Army Values, and improving the overall foundation of our Army community.”

In addition to Soldier support, the role of leadership across Humphreys and Eighth Army in appropriately and adequately addressing SHARP is essential in promoting a safe and educated atmosphere in which Soldiers can thrive.

“Leaders set the tone in their organizations,” said Burleson. “If something is important to a leader, then it will be important to most within a unit. Leaders must lead our prevention training and education. People are the Army. Treating people with dignity and respect ensures we are ready to perform our duties if called upon.”

The coordination and organization of the SAAPW by the Humphreys BOSS program demonstrates the widespread Soldier and community support of advocacy, education and awareness of SHARP across the post. The BOSS team coordinated with organizations from across Humphreys to bring in volunteers, speakers, experts and participants throughout the week.

“We have used the installation’s BOSS Program as a way to ensure our junior and entry level Soldier population understand every facet of the Army’s SHARP program,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin C. Lemon Jr., the senior enlisted advisor for USAG Humphreys. “The BOSS SAAPW week is a great example of Soldiers owning the challenge and finding ways to solve it.”

USAG Humphreys and Eighth Army's commitment to changing the underlying culture and address SHARP concerns emphasizes the importance of individuals throughout the Army to take action, even when it may be difficult.

“Individual action is the most important part of the success of many programs,” said Burleson. “If someone sees something that isn’t right or doesn’t look right, they have an obligation to intervene. This is what personal courage is all about, taking action.”

Leaders’ lessons, leadership, presence, and actions to address SHARP and the detrimental effects that it poses to the community are not lost on Soldiers. Such integrated and multifaceted responses reveal the necessity and effectiveness of a cohesive and thorough response to SHARP.

“Junior enlisted Soldiers are all under the authority of our Commanders,” said Holmes. “We see everything they do, just as they see what we do. If leadership does not take programs such as SHARP seriously, it can establish a toxic atmosphere within our community that can spread throughout all components of the force. Seeing the USAG Humphreys and the Eighth Army command teams out at our events, amongst the many other command teams on Humphreys, was a comforting example of leadership that is taking the initiative to make a change.”

Photo Caption:
CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea - Command Sgt. Maj. Robert H. Cobb, the senior enlisted advisor for Eighth Army, reads a section of the Forth Hood Independent Review during an open discussion with Soldiers and community members from across Humphreys, as part of the Better Opportunities for Single Soldiers (BOSS) Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Week (SAAPW) here, April 29. The SAAPW included educational events, discussions, mentorship programs and a Take Back the Night 5k Glow Run, organized to help raise awareness of and express condemnation of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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