POWIDZ, Poland –
April is sexual assault and sexual awareness month.
The U.S. Army conducts training in April, as well as throughout the year, to remind Soldiers that such behavior has no place within its ranks. Establishing special programs such as Sexual Harassment and Assault Prevention Program is part of the base improvement process that the 652nd Regional Support Group was tasked with. This program supports commanders with prevention, training, and awareness efforts.
652nd RSG, a U.S. Army Reserve unit out of Helena, Montana, is tasked with providing base support operations at 11 different bases across Poland. That means taking care of living and dining facilities, gyms, morale and welfare areas, and ensuring that the Soldiers have the best support possible.
“No matter what is going on, nothing makes it OK for someone to do that (sexually harass or assault) to you,” said Sgt. Cody Voye, a postal sergeant with 444th Human Resources Company out of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “My goal is to become a victim advocate through Army SHARP academy.”
The Army SHARP program calls for a cultural change in the Army and embodies a vision of discipline and respect. Soldiers intervene in sexual harassment and sexual assault to protect each other. This program has full time staff and those who serve as additional duty. The sexual assault response coordinators serve full time at brigade size units and above. While victim advocates assist the SARCs and serve as an additional duty to their main job. Having both positions allows Soldiers to have someone available 24/7 if they need help. Both receive training certified by the National Advocate Credentialing Program and are credentialed through the Department of Defense Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program.
Voye, a fourth-generation service member, is familiar with the SHARP program and its goals. He uses his knowledge to offer a listening ear to those that might need help. Voye believes that it’s not a weakness to seek help. Seeing that one needs help shows strength and admitting that one cannot do it alone is the first step to healing.
“It took me a while to realize that,” admits Voye.
Voye sought assistance when he needed it. The SHARP representatives he contacted found the best resources to assist him. Every resource Voye used he shares with others in need. He recommends talking with Army chaplains because they carry 100% conversation anonymity. Another resource he shares with others is Military One Source. This program is free and offers 12 weeks of counseling. They match the right type of counselor with Soldiers depending on their needs.
“I want others to be able to come forward and get help for what they went through,” Voye explained.
One of the SARCs at base camp Powidz is Sgt. 1st Class Lynnsey Moen, a vulnerability assessment noncommissioned officer. In addition to her main job, Moen also serves as a SARC who oversees the SHARP program for 652nd RSG and managers the other VAs. While Moen is assigned to the 652nd RSG, she finds herself assisting other units as well.
“Even though I’m supposed to be responsible for our unit only, other units do not have coverage. That’s something we provide without question. The goal is to transition them to a VA at their location, preferable in their unit,” explains Moen.
The 652nd is the first U.S. Army Reserve RSG to arrive to Poland and take over the day-to-day tasks of base support from the units who are there for training. During this transition Moen took time to organize the SHARP program efforts in Poland.
“I’ve been utilized by 21st Theater Sustainment Command and 7th Army Training Command and U.S Army Europe as the main base of knowledge for Poland,” explains Moen. “Having our mayor cells at all the forward operating stations has been a great way for me to increase knowledge.”
With the assistance of her team, Moen discovered program shortfalls. She began identifying solutions and improving the program immediately.
“One of the issues was hotlines and DSN lines; a lot of Soldiers cannot reach from Poland,” explains Moen. “I’m bringing awareness to some of those issues.”
Capt. Oscar De Los Reyes, an intelligence officer from Casper, Wyoming, is serving alongside Moen as a VA. He responds directly to her and provides assistance to Soldier who may be impacted by sexual harassment or assault. He describes the job as difficult but rewarding because it allows him to assist someone and acknowledge them.
“I’m a leader, I can make an impact,” De Los Reyes said.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Sturgill, an area security force protection noncommissioned officer from Virginia City, Montana, recently attended the SHARP course in Germany to become a unit VA for 652nd RSG. When asked why he chose to get certification Sturgill explains that the units need them. Units use VA and SARC representatives to educate the formation and to help those who need assistance. Soon Sturgill will finalize his certification and will serve in one of those positions. But he finds that the training is useful for his civilian career as well.
“I’m a deputy and VA is a good course to have. I have to deal with a lot of that on civilian side. I’ve been doing this for 18 years and in those 18 years I noticed that the climate has shifted,” explains Sturgill. “It made leaps and bounds in protecting people and to change the culture. It’s our job to make sure they get all the treatment and help, make sure that there are no repercussions.”
Moen, De Los Reyes, and Sturgill described their jobs in the program as impactful. It takes a team of caring individuals to organize this program in Poland.
“It’s something I took for granted before I took the training and was put in the position,” said Moen.
Together, the trained team and those who want to share their story are truly making a difference for the SHARP program in Poland. Between Soldiers who serve as trained SARCs and VAs and those who are willing to share their stories, the program is growing and helping with prevention, training, and awareness.
“I have two families; I have a family at home and I family that I’m here with on deployment,” concludes Voye. “It helps knowing that if I’m having issues, I can always go talk to any one of them.”