In March we celebrated Women’s History month and during observances recognized their great accomplishments. April brings to the forefront a topic we as leaders take very seriously and must not tolerate in our ranks.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. The campaign is held to raise awareness about sexual violence and educate our formations on how to prevent it. Soldiers and leaders show their support for the campaign by wearing teal ribbons or clothing  

This year’s theme is, “Shaping a Culture of Trust. Protecting Our People Protects Our Mission.”  This year, the theme emphasizes the importance of strengthening our culture, and explains why a culture of trust is imperative for the Army.

When Soldiers wear the cloth of their nation, they volunteer to defend our nation against all enemies foreign and domestic. Being able to trust those serving beside you is something all Soldiers should be able to take comfort in.  Violating a Soldier’s trust in this way is deplorable and those who commit sexual assault will be thoroughly investigated and held accountable for their actions.

The Army continues to handle these problems head-on. We remain steadfast in expanding our prevention efforts and continue to revise outdated policies.

 In November 2018, Secretary of the Army Mark Esper made critical changes to the way Soldiers receive their Sexual Assault prevention training. In order to fulfill the mandatory requirements for the training’s completion, Soldiers were previously allowed to complete the training online if they couldn’t receive it from their unit.

Thanks to honorable Esper, the training must now be completed face-to-face using Army Training Network materials and with the help of credentialed Army Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention experts. This ensures the training focuses more on readiness and prevention, and less as a task Soldiers are required to do in order to be compliant with Army and unit training.

Another recent change is the combining of the Army SHARP office with the Resiliency Directorate. Backed by the Secretary of the Army, the merger helps meet the Army’s goal of having a force of ready and resilient Soldiers who live the Army values, and are able to help defend our nation.  

SHARP professionals continue to provide command teams with the knowledge and tools required to foster organizational climates based on the Army Values. With their help, our leaders will continue to improve the SHARP program. Soldiers who come forward will be treated with dignity and respect while receiving the care they need.   

Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley and Secretary of the Army Esper urged leaders and Soldiers, “Don’t be a bystander.”  If we as an Army are going to eradicate sexual assault, we must all stay vigilant. If you see any questionable situations and you are able to intervene, do it. We are all capable of seeing warning signs. Don’t be afraid to move someone out of harm’s way, or get help. It is up to all of us to effect positive change.

Sexual harassment or assault is a readiness issue. We must all participate to eliminate this behavior from our squads and our Army. We cannot be bystanders. We must take action today and continue preventing SHARP violations in our formations.

The Army is a team sport. We must be able to train as we fight. Master the basics to remain always ready and expeditionary to deploy globally when called. Standards and discipline must be adhered to, ensuring Soldiers are doing the right thing and held accountable when they’re not. Everyone must know their position on the team and be ready to get in the game and play. Mission command is what determines victory, but we can’t remain ready to win large scale ground combat operations around the world with the threat of sexual assault jeopardizing readiness at home.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention month, but we must be committed to preventing violations every month.

There are many events coming up in support of Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. I encourage everyone to show support for these events to raise awareness of sexual assault in an effort to rid this plague from our formations.

• Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center “Making Strides Against Assault” 71 Hour Relay. Starts: April 5, 9 a.m. Ends: April 8, 9 a.m. at CRDAMC parking lot (corner of Wratten and Old Railhead drives).

• 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command and 1st Calvary Division’s SHARP Family Awareness Day. April 26, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., at Abrams Gym.