FORT LEE, Va. (Jan. 14, 2016) -- To be honest, the SHARP Peer-to-Peer Program didn’t look promising at first. It seemed like a superficial effort – Soldiers sitting around having gripe sessions, issues never getting resolved and, perhaps, even more issues being created.
However, I was amazed at the results of my company’s 45-day pilot program. Incredibly, positive outcomes were noticed in the first three weeks. Since its inception in June 2015, Peer-to-Peer has become a source of pride for student leadership, and it has developed some fine young leaders.
The Enforcer Company (Echo, 16th Ordnance Battalion) program is a readiness multiplier because of its varied functions. As a prevention tool, Peer-to-Peer empowers young leaders to stop sexual harassment/assault at the lowest level – the peers they interact with on a daily basis – which enhances our unit’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention efforts.
Second, it allows the noncommissioned officer leaders of nine separate platoons, along with the student first sergeant, to discuss matters that are creating discipline issues. Lastly, it allows the student leadership – predominantly the student first sergeant – to bring issues and concerns directly to the company command team.
Command involvement with Peer-to-Peer student leadership only strengthens the program. The command team does not run the show, but listens to issues and initiates action on student recommendations (the good ones). An example is one platoon that seemed to have a high level of animosity toward each other. The leadership recommended an additional equal opportunity session. This was implemented and it curbed most of the EO issues within the company.
Many of the interactions between the student leadership and command team occur over breakfast in the dining facility. The rest of the company sees this open exchange that shows the commander is listening, engaging and empowering the student leadership, which pays huge dividends. This is important because, at the end of the day, the student leadership really has no authority. However, it is a way to demonstrate they have a direct link to the person who has ultimate authority, the company commander.
Also key to the program is ensuring responsibility is appropriately handed off from one student first sergeant to the next. This person must be the strongest leader within the student body. They have to live the Army Values and be a role model for the rest of the company. If not, they will lose all credibility with the Soldiers, peer leaders and command team. The four student first sergeants I have had so far have all been tremendous and really demonstrated that some of our young Soldiers are already good leaders with amazing potential.
The Peer-to-Peer Program is a must for any commander to endorse in his or her AIT companies. It is a great way to find the pulse of Soldiers in the ranks without talking to each one. It also empowers AIT Soldiers to hold each other accountable in the issues of SHARP, EO, bullying and living the Army Values. I wish I would have started this program from day 1 instead of day 210.
(Read more about the Ord. School Peer-to-Peer Program at www.ftleetraveller.com)