FORT LEE, Va. -- They were smitten with each other the moment they met while in-processing as new students assigned to the 23rd Quartermaster Brigade.
Over the days they awaited the start of classes, the two conversed and sent messages to one another. Soon, they were holding hands. That eventually led to kissing and caressing in private. Their relationship had grown to a level of mutual trust. One day, the male Soldier sent a message to the female Soldier to meet him in a nearby tool shed. She complied.
It was a decision they both likely regretted. She was sexually assaulted and traumatized, and he was led off by military police in handcuffs.
As tragic as it might seem, the story’s outcome and the events leading to it are based on a true story. So exemplary was the case, it was appropriated for a short training video now being used to deliver how sexual misconduct amongst advanced individual training students can lead to ruin, said Sgt. 1st Class Cheryl D. McNutt-Kalbach, the brigade’s sexual assault response coordinator.
“The brigade commander’s intent is to show how an innocent comment or relationship could lead to a sexual assault in a short period of time,” she said.
For clarification, consensual dating is not allowed in AIT per Training and Doctrine Command regulations, said McNutt-Kalbach.
The video, titled “Stop It On Day One,” is the work of 1st Lt. Christopher Lamoureux, executive officer for Tango Company, 266th QM Bn. Since the early spring, it has been shown during the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention portion of the brigade’s new-student orientation. The moniker is based on the brigade’s training motto “Day One Ready.”
Five minutes in length, the piece has no verbal dialogue but is strengthened by actual students, cadre and military police who play themselves. Additionally, it features familiar brigade surroundings, multiple scenes and a dead-on, straight-to-the-point message that resonates with students.
“It keeps their attention,” said Camilla “Faye” Lewis, SHARP victim advocate, who teams with McNutt-Kalbach to conduct the briefings. “They don’t drift off as they tend to do when we use PowerPoint presentations. The video has a plot – a beginning, middle and end – and it’s easy to follow.”
During a recent orientation, McNutt-Kalbach and Lewis briefly introduced themselves and quickly moved to showing the video. The AIT Soldiers seemed curious about the piece and even laughed during some early scenes. As the plot became more serious, the air of comedy had all but escaped the room.
Seizing the moment of sobriety when the screen went dark, McNutt-Kalbach resumed her SHARP pitch, elevating her voice and reiterating to students the risks taken to engage in inappropriate behavior is not worth the reward.
“It’s very effective,” she said, referring to the video in conjunction with the follow-on presentation. “We don’t have as many issues since we’ve shown this video. Once they see this Soldier arrested, they’re thinking ‘Hey, this guy went to jail. This is serious.’”
Two additional video shorts were made in the same fashion and are available for viewing by the students prior to their departures, said McNutt-Kalbach.
Though it is difficult to measure the videos’ impact on the SHARP program overall, it sets the tone for student behavioral standards, making them more aware of their actions, she further observed.
In addition to the orientation training, McNutt-Kalbach said she has explored other ways to affect student conduct. She occasionally visits the adjacent mall wearing civilian clothes to chat and connect with Soldiers. During her times at the popular hangout, she has had to intervene when student behaviors fall short of the norm.
“I always tell them you never know who is watching, and they need to be mindful of how they carry themselves,” said McNutt-Kalbach.
In an extension of its outreach efforts, the 23rd QM Bde., also sponsors mentorship programs for males and females as a way of influencing students and keeping them aware of SHARP program values.
Although outreach is an important element in the brigade’s SHARP program, community vigilance and support are critical. For one, Lewis said the actions or inaction of bystanders in situations leading to sexual misconduct can never be understated.
“Soldiers need to heed that well-known saying ‘If you see something, say something,’” she said. “A lot of times we see things, but we don’t believe what we’re seeing until something happens. I encourage people to take action before something happens.”
On a final note, McNutt-Kalbach said the brigade’s SHARP program is only as effective as the support it receives from the command team. Col. Gregory S. Townsend and Command Sgt. Maj. Lisa M. Haney, the commander and CSM, respectively, consider SHARP a priority and have been open to every new idea.
“I think allowing Ms. Lewis and I to venture out and do different things really works,” said McNutt-Kalbach, “because we’re able to share what we know and incorporate (the leadership’s) ideas.”
Looking forward, the brigade SHARP program is considering ways to help students better understand how sexual misconduct can not only impact the victim and perpetrator but their fellow Soldiers, the mission and the unit at large, according to its SARC team.