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Public Affairs : SecArmy visits West Point

SecArmy lauds cadet initiative on sexual assault prevention, education 

Story and photos by Mike Strasser
Assistant Editor
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Dec. 17, 2013) — Secretary of the Army John McHugh visited the U.S. Military Academy Dec. 12 and met with cadets, faculty and staff during a series of forums that covered issues such as sexual assault prevention, cyber and national security.

Class of 2014 Cadets Havana Schmidt and Joseph Dooley briefed the secretary on the initiative developed in the Corps of Cadets to help in the prevention of sexual assaults.

Schmidt was named the Corps’ first brigade representative for the Cadets Against Sexual Harassment/Assault program, which is a grassroots initiative that emerged in 2011 and was spearheaded by cadets who serve in volunteer roles.

Some of those volunteers, like Class of 2015 Cadets Kaitlin Vanwye, Julianne Steurer, Ashley Phillips and Cort Thompson, who previously served as the cadet-in-charge of the program, were represented at the briefing. Five of these cadets have completed the Army’s 80-hour SHARP certification from a mobile training team.

The group discussed the origins of the new program, lessons learned to date, and their goals as they move into the second semester. Schmidt said, beginning next semester, the Corps will have new CASH/A representatives at the regimental and company levels and a deputy brigade position. Their main goal is to act as peer advisers and trainers to assist tactical and cadet leadership with the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention program.

McHugh recently released a list of priorities; a number of strategic issues and areas where he is currently focusing much of his time and effort. At the top of that list was sexual assault prevention.

“The CASH/A program is a good example of the initiative we both admire and expect from our future officers,” McHugh said. “Not only is it a step in the right direction toward the prevention of sexual assault, one of my top priorities, it is also teaching them valuable lessons they will use down the road as leaders in the Army.”

Secretary of the Army John McHugh talks with 12 cadets in the National Security Seminar on politics, cyber security and other issues Dec. 12 during his visit to West Point.
Class of 2014 Cadets Joseph Dooley and Havana Schmidt brief Secretary of the Army John McHugh on the Cadets Against Sexual Harassment/Assault program.

Schmidt and her colleagues have conducted similar briefings on CASH/A and SHARP as early as Cadet Basic Training and Cadet Field Training this summer. The opportunity to brief the Army secretary among the academy’s senior leadership was unique, she said.

“It really does show that he cares about what we are doing, and that extends to all of our chain of command here … everybody has supported us extensively,” Schmidt said. “It feels good to be empowered.”

McHugh also cited cyber security as a focus area, and last fall directed the establishment of the Army Cyber Center at West Point.

Col. Greg Conti, the Army Cyber Center director, provided McHugh with an update of the center’s progress and accomplishments. McHugh also met with members of the Cadet Competitive Cyber Team.

“West Point plays a vital role in helping the Army support the national cyber mission,” McHugh said. “Programs like the Competitive Cyber Team provide cadets with opportunities to help develop innovative solutions to complex cyber security problems.”

Recently, 15 Soldiers were awarded the Army’s newest military occupational specialty, 25D, cyber network defender, after graduating from a 14-week course at Fort Gordon, Ga. At West Point, Lt. Col. Kenneth Viall, an assistant professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, was inducted into the Order of Thor by the National Cyber Professionals Association.

While at West Point, McHugh, as a guest lecturer, provided cadets in the National Security Seminar with insights on importance of working together with Congress. McHugh, who was a member of the House of Representatives for 17 years, provided a unique perspective that intrigued cadets who asked many questions.

Also during his visit, the secretary toured the barracks and was briefed on the new construction and renovation projects that will improve quality of life for the Corps.

“Every time I have the honor and opportunity to come back to West Point I am struck by its history and sense of purpose,” McHugh said. “It’s always a special occasion for me.”