JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – The United States Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, Arizona are taking on the tough topics like sexual assault, sexual harassment, equal opportunity struggles and suicide, through a new group of Soldier ambassadors.
The Resilience, Awareness, Prevention, Inclusion, and Diversity program aims to make impacts on Army formations through bystander intervention techniques and community in order to ultimately help eliminate harmful behaviors.
The RAPID Program at Fort Huachuca, is the evolution of the Soldiers Against Sexual Assault/Harassment (SASH) program. While the teal tab of the program has been adopted by the new RAPID Program, it still distinguishes those Soldiers dedicated to making a difference in the overall culture of their units. While the primary foundation of the RAPID Program is based on education and training the focus is on building a community through outreach and comradery.
“Many ask why we kept the teal tab. We kept the teal tab to pay homage to where this program began years ago,” Sgt. 1st Class Saquawia Pennington, 111th MI BDE SARC, said. “This is also a way for us to help mold Soldiers to live all of the Army Values. We are trying to change the culture but it starts with a large community of people working towards the same goal over a long period of time. Hence keeping the teal tab because it was familiar but expanding the knowledge and scope of the program to build a more ‘holistic Soldier’ and future leader.”
The Soldiers who choose to wear the teal tab are advocates for already existing regulations like the Equal Opportunity program, Army’s Resiliency program, Army Holistic Health and Fitness, the Army’s Suicide Prevention program, and Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program. These individuals have volunteered to be the eyes and ears for these values within their formations. They focus not only on educating their peers, but also on being a trusted source for these topics should their peers experience any situation related to them.
As the first line of defense against these behaviors, RAPID members meet on a regular basis to discuss different topics the force is currently facing. The continued education and training allows RAPID members to feel more equipped to assist fellow Soldiers in nearly any situation. Their knowledge and training also helps them to identify and intervene when a squad member is being treated unfairly or inappropriately. This intervention allows struggles of this nature to be handled within the unit, and to become elevated higher when a RAPID member identifies their severity.
The program aids in prevention and promotion efforts through the maintenance of a positive working and living environment free from sexual harassment, assault, hazing, bullying, and other resiliency concerns. Activities such as basketball tournaments, clothing drives, socials and volunteer activities are additional ways in which the program helps RAPID Members feel as though they have a purpose which helps to combat loneliness and isolation which often leads to suicide ideations.
“The Soldiers who are attending these meetings are not just coming so they can earn a Certificate of Achievement. These Soldiers are coming to these meetings and engaging with us on some of the most difficult and taboo issues that have become such a problem in the Army,” Command Sgt. Maj. Ken Lima, 305th Military Intelligence Battalion command sergeant major, said.
RAPID expands the knowledge the previous SASH Program provided to its members, to include a wider range of situations. The program’s more in-depth training allows Soldiers to learn more topics, eliminating the possibility of a struggle going unaddressed.
“This program is seeing a lot of peer-to-peer engagement and it is really amazing how active they are becoming with the lessons and tools we are giving them during these monthly meetings,” Sgt. 1st Class Uriah Jones, 305th Military Intelligence Battalion SARC, said. “These Soldiers truly are the driving force behind the movement to end sexual assault, sexual harassment, equal opportunity misgivings, as well as bringing awareness to the suicidal ideation endemic that has been making its way through the military.”
According to Pennington, many of the issues RAPID members encounter are simply individuals looking for guidance on “what right looks like” in the Army. The program uses RAPID members and regular meetings and morale boosting activities to further the education young Soldiers receive during Basic Combat Training and build cohesion, with goal of preventing negative behaviors before they occur.
“The majority of the new Soldiers (between the ages 18-25) come from backgrounds that accepted behaviors Army standards deem inappropriate,” Pennington said. “Some ‘mis-step’ and receive punitive punishment. Some are kicked out, or become jaded when what they may have needed was direction, education, words of affirmation, community, or a sense of belonging.”
Nearly identical to the SASH program, RAPID members are not confidential reporting authorities for SHARP-related incidents their peers may come to them with. Instead, they are trusted, peer-level conduits to help and provide guidance.
Any Soldier interested in becoming a RAPID member must:
– Exemplify the Army Values
– Have no outstanding UCMJ
– Not be founded of any EO or SHARP complaint
– Apply, be interviewed and receive approval from their company command team
According to Kendal Lydon, a North Carolina State ROTC Cadet, RAPID allows its members and those who take part in their trainings to be part of a program committed to changing the culture of the Army. Those trainings extend beyond new members receiving their qualifications to become ambassadors, but also through the RAPID Challenge interactive training opportunity available to any Soldier or civilian.
“The program teaches and aids Soldiers in how to intervene in real life problems. It’s (RAPID Challenge) not your standard PowerPoint presentation that has typically been used for military training,” Lydon said. “It’s fully immersive and requires Soldiers to think critically in order to solve issues related to corrosive behaviors. By empowering Soldiers in the program, it helps them to gain the confidence to intervene the moment an issue arises. This truly is a grassroots movement that creates leaders who want to look out for their Soldiers and create an environment everyone wants to work in.”
The RAPID Program is not just a Fort Huachuca Program. When led by innovative and passionate leaders it has the potential to fit the needs of any organization, Pennington explained. She has shared the RAPID Program with multiple organizations across the force from Defense Language Institute to Fort Bragg. Sgt. 1st Class Erik Rostamo, 519th Military Police Battalion, was amongst the first to adopt the RAPID program. Within 519th Military Police Battalion, the RAPID Program goes by the name of the Protect Program, which saw its first graduates last week.
“This is a program that allows Soldiers to be part of something bigger,” Rostamo, said. “They will be joining a band of brothers and sisters in arms that have stepped up to be the change makers and innovators of today’s Army.
The Protect Program is a grass roots initiative focused on teaching junior enlisted Soldiers, how to protect and keep each other safe. Both the RAPID and Protect programs are aimed at protecting TRADOC and the Army’s most important asset; it’s people through awareness, education and advocacy.
For more information about the RAPID program, email [email protected]