599th Trans. embraces SHARP goals

| June 27, 2014 | 0 Comments

Donna Klapakis
599th Transportation Brigade Public Affairs

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — Amy Nowak, 599th Transportation Brigade SHARP victim advocate, arranges a display table for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the 599th headquarters building, here, April 1.

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — Amy Nowak, 599th Transportation Brigade SHARP victim advocate, arranges a display table for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in the 599th headquarters building, here, April 1.

WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD — The 599th Transportation Brigade now has a full-time sexual assault response coordinator (SARC) and a Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Program (SHARP) victim advocate (VA).

“I want to make the 599th program the model for all of the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eric Pettengill, SARC, 599th Trans. Bde.

“Even though the battalions are located throughout the Pacific, it is the commander’s intent to provide confidential care, support and advocacy for victims of sexual assault, while simultaneously promoting awareness and prevention programs through education throughout the entire brigade,” said the 599th senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Claudia Shakespeare.

Pettengill realizes the brigade has a special set of challenges because it’s one of the few headquarters in Hawaii with all of its battalions and detachments scattered across the Pacific.

“There’s a lot of ground to cover to make sure our battalions get all of their training. We also have to deal with the area SARCs in the Pacific, so that they know to cover down if something happens out there. We have to make sure we have a good liaison with them,” Pettengill said.

Amy Nowak, 599th VA, agreed.

“Sgt. 1st Class Pettengill or I plan to go out to the battalions in September when we have the brigade inspection program,” she said. “In the meantime, we communicate with a lot of emailing and telephone calls. In the battalions, being a victim advocate is an additional duty, so I know that they have their regular job, plus they are being tasked for reports from their local garrisons, as well as from us.”

Nowak said her previous experience working with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services gave her insight into working with government bureaucracies.

“Whether a job is state or federal, first you have to understand that policy guides everything, and that everything you do involves other agencies, whether state or federal,” Nowak said.

Staff Sgt. Tiffany Dixon was the brigade’s sole VA as an additional duty before Nowak arrived. She still has the additional duty, but is now relieved of many of the obligations. Dixon believes that early education is the key to cultural change.

“Schools need to have people come and educate the kids, because that’s where it starts — in schools,” Dixon said. “We need to educate them through elementary school, through teenagers to adults.”

Dixon said the most interesting part of the position is learning about the cases.

“It has been amazing to me to read about how many cases are out there with people being sexually harassed and sexually assaulted. We have to change our whole culture in the work area to make a difference with this,” she said.

SHARP personnel must align with other units in the command and be aware of local incidents and policies. To ensure good communication, a representative from the 599th attends monthly meetings with U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii and video teleconferences with U.S. Army-Pacific.

If the phone rings with an assault or harassment complaint, it becomes the first priority for a SARC or VA.

“So far, we haven’t had any sexual harassment or assault complaints at all,” Nowak said. “We serve as an objective person to listen to complaints, if they come up, and give options according to AR 600-20 (command policy for Equal Opportunity and SHARP). Then we follow through.

“We’re very small and we don’t fit the demographic, but that doesn’t mean that problems of sexual harassment and sexual assault can’t happen here. Just like everywhere else, it all comes down to respect. If people continue to treat each other with respect, the problems will remain nonexistent,” Nowak said.

SHARP

A victim’s advocate/SHARP specialist provides essential support and care to victims, providing non-clinical information on available reporting options, unit transfer options and procedures, and resources to assist victims in making informed decisions as they progress through resolution and healing. The VA/SHARP specialist maintains communications and contact with victims, as needed, for continued victim support.

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Category: News, SHARP

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