When the Honorable Thomas R. Lamont visited Fort Riley July 18 and 19, he did so to gain insight and discuss Fort Riley's Sexual Harrassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.
Among the 1st Infantry Division and Fort Riley officials Lamont and his staff met with during the visit, were Col. Frank Muth, "Big Red One's" deputy commander for support, and Lt. Col. Andrew Turner, the division's senior equal opportunity and SHARP adviser. Muth, Turner and Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Gilpin, senior noncommissioned officer, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Inf. Div., at the annual SHARP Summit in June in Washington.
The annual event brings together top military officials and leaders representing each major corps and division to examine and discuss the Army's SHARP program.
The gathering gave Gen. Raymond Odierno, Army chief of staff, a place to lay out his imperatives to the commanders, Turner said recently at Fort Riley.
Those imperatives were protecting victims and providing proper care to victims to ensure leaders investigate every case of sexual assault, create a positive command climate where Soldiers trust each other and show mutual respect and ensure commanders hold Soldiers responsible, he added.
Turner's role at Fort Riley is to advise commanders to help them see themselves and see their organizations, he said. That work requires Turner to step foot outside his office.
"A lot of my work is getting out and talking to Soldiers and assessing the command and climate," he said. "Do they understand the procedures that they can utilize if they are sexually harassed or assaulted?"
It is important, too, Turner said, to help educate Soldiers regularly on what sexual harassment and assault are, so they understand the dangers and what they can do to eliminate the problem and effectively change the climate of the military. Sexual harassment could include off-color remarks or a hostile work environment, in which inappropriate materials hang on the walls, Turner said. Sexual harassment becomes assault if it is committed for sexual gratification.
The summit gave a way for the Army to look at itself and the future to see where it was going, Muth said. Leaders examined best victim advocacy practices from units across the Army to ensure they provided safe and secure environments for every Soldier and Family member.
"That is part of our Army," Muth said. "And dignity and respect for everybody. To me, those areas are absolutely critical."
If leaders don't provide dignity and respect with safe and secure environments for Soldiers and their Families, they are breaking faith with them and the American people, he said.
Odierno wanted to demonstrate his passion of preventing sexual harassment and assaults, Gilpin said, by inspiring those at the top to rally and solve the issue by placing command emphasis on the tools available to assess and take care of the problem within their ranks.
"Our Soldiers are our most important resource," he said.
Males experience harassment and assault, too, but it is especially important for female Soldiers to understand they are valuable as any other and leaders are supposed to take care of them and protect them no matter what.
"If you wear the uniform, we protect our own and want to take care of our Soldiers and our female Soldiers in a male-dominated environment," Gilpin said.
Attending the SHARP Summit and bringing back lessons learned was important because the Army has to protect the trust it built with the American people, Turner said.
"I think we could lose that trust if we don't get after this problem and eliminate it within our ranks," he said. "Because we are held to a higher standard."
One of the most interesting briefings for Gilpin came from a Criminal Investigation Division agent who had more than 30 years of experience. He talked about hidden personas: the one a person is, the one a person shows and the hidden personality. In most of those who commit assaults, it is the hidden personality that surfaces.
"That person may have been the greatest tactician on the job," Gilpin said. "He or she does a great job, and, then, all of a sudden, they do something out of character and commit assault. That's their hidden personality coming out that you just didn't see. That was an eye-opener."
Gilpin acknowledged he, as the brigade's senior noncommissioned officer, couldn't examine all the hidden personalities within the ranks, but the briefing's point was when someone does commit an assault and people say he or she was "such great Soldier," that wasn't true.
"No, they are not," Gilpin said. "They hid who they really were from you, and then they committed the assault. Cut that out. Don't say that these Soldiers were great Soldiers. They were not. Their true character has shown. They may have been great on the job, but the person they are is not of the character that this Army is looking for."
If leaders are going to change the climate within the Army, certain issues can't be overlooked, Turner said. Sometimes Soldiers are judged strictly on their competence and may have some character flaws that are allowed to go unnoticed. The chief of staff said it is paramount leaders address these character flaws.
"Whether it be infidelity, alcoholism, whatever character flaw they have," Turner said, "You are a Soldier 24/7. Call them out; get them the help that they need before this becomes a bigger issue."
Brigades can expect to see SHARP program managers – majors – within their ranks this fall. Currently, sergeants first class and civilian professionals serve as program managers and counselors.