Every day and night, the Fort Irwin military community does its part to help our friendly forces win the first battle of the next war, and dominate on the fields of battle. Whether on the front lines, or in a support capacity, we all have our parts to play. In the Human domain, the fight to purge Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment from the ranks is a continuous operation, against a persistent adversary. The Sexual Harassment/ Assault Response (SHARP) Offices across the Army have worked tirelessly to deliver professional advocacy, emotional support, unit refresher training, and case management for the formations since the inception. Despite the heroic efforts by our first responders, mistakes were being made, and the Report of The Fort Hood Independent Review Committee highlighted some of the systemic challenges which required new ways of thinking in order to achieve progress. Just as weapons evolved, from clubs and stones to muskets and M4s; organizations too must also evolve in order to meet the needs of their current operational environment.
According to current figures Fort Irwin, California, has a resident population of approximately 8,800 residents, and a daily population (which includes visitors, non-resident employees, contractors, rotational units etc.) of up to 29,000 people. For the past four years, Fort Irwin averages around 27 reports of Sexual Assault and seven reports of Sexual Harassment per year. Sexual Assault and Sexual harassment are not only unacceptable and authorized, but these intolerable violations are detrimental to the Soldiers, Civilians, and mission of this installation.
Sexual assault spans a wide array of actions ranging from unwanted touching to forcible rape. For comparison purposes in 2019 the city of Barstow, California had reported that 0.04 percent of the population of being raped while Dartmouth College, an Ivy League University of a similar population size had reported that 0.50 percent of its student body , compared to 0.007 percent at Ft. Irwin during the same period. These statistics alone are not the only metric, Sexual misconduct is historically an under-reported offense due to the highly invasive nature of the event. This combined with the sometimes antagonistic societal attitudes towards victims, creates a reluctance to report these types of incidents. Combating these cultural/societal challenges while providing premier care for our clients in a safe and welcoming atmosphere are among the primary aims of the directorate.
To address the issues highlighted in the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee, the Army created the Fusion Directorate concept. In addition to the site at Fort Irwin, there are Fusion Directorates at the following locations: Aberdeen Proving Ground, Fort Bragg, Fort Sill, Schofield Barracks, and a virtual model is operating out of Fort Dix. Fusion Directorates are essentially enhanced SHARP offices with added capabilities and capacities to facilitate accessibility, efficiency, confidentiality, multi-disciplinary collaboration as well prevention, and response. Each pilot location is given flexibility to adapt their operations to support their respective community needs.
This newly established directorate distinguishes itself from the tradition SHARP program model in many ways. First and foremost is the appointment of a senior officer who reports directly to the Senior Mission Commander, this insulates the mission from command influences at the Brigade echelon, while also emphasizing the importance of the program. Secondly, the Fusion Directorate has a consolidated staff, all of whom are located in Bldg. 287. The building serves as the initial rally point for Investigative, legal, and medical support in order to maximize efficiency. To meet the needs of our clients the entire staff, passed through extensive background checks, are credentialed under the DoD Sexual Assault Advocate Certification Program, and are Master Resilience Trainer (level 1) certified. This allows our professions in dealing with clients during their darkest hours, as well as to resist burnout.
In addition to client response services the Fusion Directorate also has a classroom, and SHARP Academy Master Instructors to enable professional training, to not only local units, leaders, but also regional partners, and personnel on TDY. The training capabilities are not limited to bldg. 287, the FD has scalable packages to deliver educational productions to the Company Commanders, First Sergeants Corse, Installation newcomers briefing or even plug into Brigade and below unit training during STX Lanes, and Foundational Training Days.
The analytics function is new this year, and it allows our teams to study the operation environment for trends, best practices, or vulnerabilities to allow leadership to asses make policy, direct resources, and streamline the delivery of effects across formations in a unified fashion.
If patterns/trends are determined to pose a threat to the forces, we can quickly push the information to the appropriate staff/ Leader echelon for deliberate action. Our Staff, on order, can now coordinate activities across tenant units or Rotational Training Units (RTU) alike to enhance public safety, and confidence.
To the naked eye, the Fusion Directorate will look very much like a traditional SHARP office, and our clients and tenant units may not even know the difference; however it’s not the building that makes the church, it’s the congregation…it’s the people. The behind the scenes efforts in coordination and synchronization of services, combined with evolutions in training and education should maintain confidentiality, efficiency, transparency, and accessibility. Our team committed to the mission, and we encourage anyone who wants to learn more about Fusion to come us visit Bldg. 287.