Representatives from the League of United Latin American Citizens visited the People First Center at Fort Hood, Feb. 15, to receive an update on the measures Fort Hood and the military have in place to prevent sexual harassment and sexual assaults within the forces.
“This center is something that I personally believe in. We are talking about things that will have a tangible impact,” said Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison at Fort Hood, as he addressed members of LULAC. “It’s a big deal for us and it’s just the beginning.”
LULAC representatives, who wanted to see first hand the changes that are being implemented at Fort Hood and hopefully throughout the Army soon, toured the facility and shared their thoughts on what is being done right, what should be done differently and were also asked to share their own ideas for training.
The People First Center is a combined training center for units, which focuses on sexual harassment/assault response and prevention, suicide prevention, domestic violence prevention, and substance abuse prevention, among others. important topics. Training is delivered through an activity-based course that provides an immersive experience for troops, so they can truly understand the training that is being given.
“We think we’re learning a lot and the Army as a whole will learn a lot from this program,” Foster added.
As they walked through the various instruction rooms, the LULAC members took notes, asked the cadre questions, and received quick feedback from the instructors.
“It has been amazing. It was a great performance from the executives,” said LULAC member Mary Moore after the facility tour. “Everyone seemed to be very knowledgeable and very knowledgeable in the area they teach and deliver. I think that looks very promising.
Moore said the only problem she sees with the program is that there could be a lot of material for people to soak up, especially if the soldier is under duress.
AnaLuisa Carrillo-Tapia, director of LULAC District 17 – Central Texas, said she still needs to learn more about the different levels of the Army’s SHARP program, while ensuring that every soldier receives the training.
“While we train them to be combat ready, we also need to ensure that they take care of themselves and their fellow combatant on every level,” Carrillo-Tapia added.
Jeff Gorres, Fort Hood SHARP program manager, told LULAC members that the Department of Defense’s Independent Review Panel on Sexual Assault in the Military recognized some gaps in reporting options, particularly when a victim reported to someone in their chain of command.
He explained that previously, if a victim of sexual assault made a report to someone in the chain of command, it was automatically designated as an unrestricted report. Previously, restricted reports could only be made if reported outside the chain of command. Now, even if reporting through the chain of command, a victim has the right to request a restricted report, which limits who knows about the assault.
“There’s more flexibility and more attention to the preferences of the victim, to what that victim needs to deal with the situation,” Foster added. “Hopefully we have a more flexible way of caring for the victim and doing the right thing from a liability standpoint.”
The garrison commander told LULAC representatives that his goal was to let them know that Fort Hood was making positive improvements to its SHARP training.
“We need to make sure you’re aware of what we’re doing and we need your help,” Foster said. “What I’m hoping is that you’ll come back to us and say, ‘We’ve seen your program, here are some things you could add to make things better.'”
The center has been running a pilot program since October, but will be fully operational on March 1. They expect to be able to get two enterprise-sized organizations into the program per week, taking things slow, so they can get it right. way and make the necessary changes. With feedback from the troops undergoing the training, they also have the opportunity to make changes to the course to make it the best it can be, with the ultimate goal of extending the training to the entire army.
“Currently it’s just Fort Hood, but we’re working diligently to prove that this should be an Army-wide program,” added Capt. Rosa Meeks, commander of the People First Center.
Throughout the training, soldiers are asked what kind of things they have seen wrong in their unit. The information is passed on to the unit’s command team, so that they are aware of the problems of their formations.
“What often happens is that the commander and first sergeant come to us and we help them come up with an action plan on how to deal with some of the challenges that they are facing,” explained 1st Sgt. Amanda Hoover, People First Center. “It could be something as simple as ‘I wish we had more civilian days.’ If it can boost morale, then it’s an easy fix.
The first sergeant said part of training at the People First Center is explaining what resources are available to soldiers, especially those new to the military, what those resources do and where they are, what which will help improve the readiness of the army.
“I think it’s very comprehensive, very comprehensive,” Moore added, “and I think it will address a lot of the issues that we see in the military.”
Carrillo-Tapia agreed that the People First Center is “a step in the right direction.”