Violence prevention course addresses sexual violence

Story and photos by U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Twist
13th Sustainment Command (expeditionary) Public Affairs

JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq — Soldiers participated in the Mentors in Violence Prevention course Oct. 31 to Nov. 1 at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

Soldiers spent the first day of the course in a classroom at Morale, Welfare and Recreation east and the second participating in practice scenarios at the Warrior Support Center.

Jeff O’Brien, an instructor with MVP Strategies out of Long Beach, Calif., and an Orlando, Fla., native, said the MVP course is a two-day leadership, train-the-trainer program, designed to motivate young men and women to play a central role in solving problems that have historically been considered women’s issues.

O’Brien said the course focuses on the prevention of sexual violence such as rape, battery, sexual harassment and sexual assault.

“All of us have been in many of these scenarios,” he said. “We try to bring that real-life perspective to the training. What you learn from what you did or didn’t do in that situation.”

He said the course was introduced to sports in 1993 and to the U.S. Marines in 1997. The Army implemented it roughly a year ago and this is the program’s first stint in Iraq, he said.

“This trip really marks our first training of Soldiers,” said O’Brien.

Master Sgt. Rita Cossio, a deployed sexual assault coordinator and equal opportunity adviser with the 13th Sustainment Command (expeditionary) out of Fort Hood, Texas, said the course gives Soldiers the skills and incentives to mentor and talk to their peers about the subject of sexual violence.

This is a program implemented by the Army’s I. A.M. Strong campaign, Cossio said. It empowers Soldiers, ranking private through staff sergeant, to talk and mentor their peers to be proactive and intervene in various issues instead of being bystanders, she said.

Cossio, an Arcadia, Calif., native, said the program uses “playbooks,” with scenarios that show Soldiers various solutions they can implement to intervene in a given situation.

She said she wants Soldiers to have the ability to talk to their peers, utilize the skills the MVP training has given them and educate each other and their units on the options available to them, to help minimize the incidents of sexual violence in the military.

“When faced with a situation of sexual assault or harassment, we often find ourselves in difficult decisions with an opportunity to act but don’t know how to act or how to properly handle the situation,” said Sgt. Matthew F. Carpenter, a chaplain assistant with the 90th Sustainment Brigade out of Little Rock, Ark., and a Portales, N.M., native.

Carpenter said the class focused on finding ways to intervene in these difficult situations and educate the Soldiers on resources that will help them choose the best course of action.

“We tend to walk away from situations that need to be brought to someone’s attention,” said Staff Sgt. Amber J. Lewis, movement noncommissioned officer with the 90th Sustainment Brigade out of Little Rock, Ark., and a Claymont, Del., native.

Lewis said she took a positive outlook from the class and can now take the information she learned and teach fellow Soldiers about preventing sexual or domestic violence.

Shannon R. Spriggs, an instructor with the program for four years and a Houston native, said they ultimately want Soldiers to be empowered to train each other.

“The whole point of this class was to teach us ways of challenging and educating fellow Soldiers on the areas of sexual assault and harassment,” said Carpenter. “There are many classes that do educate Soldiers on this subject. However, this class went beyond that.

“This class is designed to allow role playing, debate and group discussion to give Soldiers real tools and resources for everyday life, to intervene and do the right thing.”

Cossio said the training should be given at all levels of the military, as sexual violence can occur at any rank and is found within family structures as well.

“The tools and skills that are taught and shared could have enormous impact, and if given at all levels would ensure that all Soldiers have options that will allow them to be bystanders that make a difference,” she said.

 

news photo
Staff Sgt. Amber J. Lewis, movement noncommissioned officer with the 90th Sustainment Brigade out of Little Rock, Ark., 13th Sustainment Command (expeditionary) and a Claymont, Del., native, reads from a booklet during the Mentors in Violence Prevention course Nov. 1 at the Warrior Support Center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.

news photo
Staff Sgt. Chatch L. Revenge, a battle plans assistant noncommissioned officer with Headquarter and Headquarters Troop 1st Cavalry, 82nd Squadron out of Bend, Ore., and a Portland, Ore., native, participates in a practice scenario during the Mentors in Violence Prevention course Nov. 1 at the Warrior Support Center at Joint Base Balad, Iraq.