August 12, 2016 –
FORT MCCOY, Wisconsin (August 18, 2016) – Soldiers learned the depth and breadth of the U.S. Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) program during a two-week course at the 88th Regional Support Command Headquarters at Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, from August 1 to 12.
The course, titled the SHARP 80 Hour Foundation Course, prepares Soldiers to serve in victim advocate roles within their assigned units as well as to assist regional Sexual Assault Response Coordinators (SARCs). In total, there were 25 Soldiers in the second of two courses offered by the 88th RSC during the summer Annual Training season.
After graduating this course, many of these Soldiers will fill unit-level victim advocate roles. Additionally, victim advocates are often the face of the SHARP program at that level.
“Collateral duty victim advocates are normally the ones that are tasked with refresher training within the unit,” said Penny Gietzen, the command SARC for 88th RSC. “We try to prepare them with different tools, different videos and resources in general that they can use.”
Gietzen, who was also one of the instructors for this course, said the Foundation Course lessons begin with the basics.
“We start with the legal movement, victim’s rights and how that’s progressed over the years,” she said.
From there, Gietzen said, the course tackles the intricacies of being a victim advocate and how to make a positive impact on preventing sexual harassment and sexual assault, starting at the lowest level. The course is divided into 15 chapters with practical exercises and role-playing scenarios helping to drive the points of each lesson home. Finally, students must pass an evaluation that tests their knowledge of the SHARP program and the lessons learned during the two weeks of training as well as a role-playing scenario where a victim advocate meets with a sexual assault victim.
“(The instructors) were very thorough,” said Staff Sgt. Felicia Moore, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Florida Army National Guard. “It was refreshing to have instructors that were currently fulfilling the roles as SARCs. Being able to know that they’re not just teaching us something, they’re actually in the position now. They’re able to share their experiences with us.”
There are now more victim advocates to fill roles that were either vacant or filled by someone without the foundational training provided here because these two courses are complete.
“This course is great because it’s helping to educate myself and I’ll be able to educate other Soldiers in my unit,” said Staff Sgt. Shawnda Roberts, from the Florida Army National Guard.
Two iterations of the same class in one season are rare but, Gietzen said, it shows the importance being placed on the SHARP program.
“It’s great when we start seeing that our voices are being heard and they’re taking the feedback we’re providing and incorporating it into the program it’s a big sense of satisfaction knowing that you’re making an impact,” she said.
There are more planned Foundation Courses at various locations across the U.S. Army Reserve Command footprint for Fiscal Year 2017. Gietzen says the 88th RSC will play a prominent role in those courses once again.
“It’s important for those victim advocates to get trained and go back to their units and make sure the training is being conducted consistently,” she said.