Leading the Troops in Preventing Sexual Assault
By Tanner Cole
Prevention of sexual harassment and assault is the Army’s top priority, and Army ROTC cadets at Fort Knox were introduced to the issue right away.
“Sex Signals” training presented cadets with one of the most difficult leadership challenges they may face.
The training is part of the Army’s SHARP program, or Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention – part of the on-going and multifaceted effort to improve the statistics of sexual misconduct in the army and to build a safer armed forces. As future leaders of the Army, the cadets present will be entrusted with properly responding to and preventing sexual assault within their ranks.
SHARP is just one aspect of the Leader Development and Assessment Course [LDAC] that the future Army officers are moving through during cadet summer training.
The presentation was led by Sgt. 1st Class Warren Hunter, of Cadet Command. The training was delivered using open dialogues between him and Cadets in the audience. These discussion took part during key points in the film, “The Invisible War,” a 2012 documentary on rape in the armed forces.
“[The Cadets] need to understand the cultural perceptions of the Army SHARP program, as well as how we, as leaders, can address the problem while in command,” Hunter said. “The key to prevention of sexual assault is being educated on it and feeling the responsibility to intervene.”
During the training, Hunter asked Cadets how they could fulfill their leadership roles in regards to sexual assault. Hunter received answers about reporting assault to the chain of command, but Cadet Sierra Hunt, of the University of Portland, took the microphone and gave the exact answer Hunter was seeking.
“We also have the responsibility to prevent it,” Hunt said.
“The Invisible War” featured first-hand explanations of rape and assault in the Army and how those cases were handled. The stories were traumatic and emotional, but the Cadets needed to be educated on every challenge they might have to overcome.
Cadet Emily Coppe, of Texas Technical University, saw the film previously and had received warnings from her father, who retired as a Staff Sergeant, about behaviors she may encounter during her service.
“My dad always warned me to carry a knife on me,” Coppe said. “I hear from females all the time that you have to kind of defend yourself.”
The training reassured Coppe that the Army had made strong progress since her father’s time.
“Hearing the statistics that they listed out recently, it’s good to hear that more females are standing up and talking recently,” Coppe said. “It made me feel a little safer … and this morning they gave us a lot of references. They gave out cards – like SHARP cards. People to contact if you need help. Seeing that it kind of gives more security.”
During the training Brig. Gen. Peggy Combs, the commanding general at Cadet Command, made an appearance in order to emphasize the importance of SHARP. Her passioned speech had every Cadet yelling out ‘hooah’ as loud as they could in response to her points.
“These are leader issues. These are leader concerns,” Combs said. “The only way the Army can change is if this group of people, young leaders, help us change the culture and help us say ‘that ain’t right, and we have to do something about it.’”
In addition to supporting the SHARP training, Combs wanted to inspire the Cadets towards achieving their dreams. She urged each of them to have a goal for the Leader Development and Assessment Course and to constantly progress towards it. She shared a recent story in order to emphasize that SHARP is a concern for the Army. Coppe found the example and her overall presentation stimulating.
“She was really motivating, and I like that she gave the incident with the second lieutenant,” Coppe said. “It shows that there’s still people out there. The Army hasn’t 100 percent fixed all these kinds of issues.”
The responses Cadets gave indicated that the training’s intent of informing was successful. The mission of the training, according to Hunter, was to educate the soldiers within the Army’s ranks. Combs left the room confident that this group of leaders would improve statistics even more. She closed with a statement of certainty.
“Know this,” Combs said. “You’re going to be a leader, and you’re going to be great at it.”