FORT DRUM, N.Y., April 17, 2015 —
Being the best at whatever she does is nothing new for Army Sgt. 1st Class Chylciale M. Washington -- she’s made a career of it.
Among her many accolades, Washington was recently named one of U.S. Army Forces Command’s best sexual assault response coordinators during the selection for the Department of Defense’s Exceptional Sexual Assault Response Coordinator awards.
However proud she is of that distinction, Washington said she’s prouder of the 10th Mountain Division’s Sexual Harassment/ Assault Response and Prevention program that she and her original four-member team built from the ground up and ultimately cultivated into one of the Army’s best.
“Winning is important to me, but I think it’s more important for the 10th Mountain Division as a whole,” Washington said about the nomination. “It sets a tone and lets ‘big Army’ know that 10th Mountain has a great program.”
Army Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, former Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division commander, nominated Washington from the field of Fort Drum SARCs, in large part, because of the job she did during last year’s deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom at Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. She was one of six SARCs named as the best throughout FORSCOM.
Leading by Example
“Sgt. 1st Class Washington leads by example, and many people find her enthusiasm and dedication both inspiring and motivating,” Townsend wrote in his recommendation. “She has been the driving force behind several policies and programs that have been instrumental toward increasing SHARP awareness [and] victim services and improving incident response coordination between the numerous Sexual Assault Response Team agencies.”
This was Washington’s first nomination since starting as a SARC in 2010, when she was fresh off the trail as a drill sergeant from Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. She was assigned to the 7th Engineer Battalion as a firefighter, and she helped to raise the division’s SHARP program from its infancy.
“Basically, we started from scratch,” she recalled.
Through months of the growing pains of taking over programs from responsibilities shared by both the Equal Opportunity and the Family Advocacy programs, Washington said she is really happy to look back and see the progress they’ve made together to meet the Department of Defense’s directives.
“It’s come a long way from where it began,” she said. “In the beginning, we started doing these classes and we just patiently waited for things to kick off.”
Educating Soldiers to End Sexual Harassment
Earlier in her career, as an equal opportunity representative, Washington worked to both educate soldiers and end sexual harassment within her unit. Through her time as a firefighter and a drill sergeant, she witnessed things that troubled her. She wanted to be the person who would let others know that certain behavior was not OK and there was something that could be done about it -- that it needed to be dealt with appropriately -- at all levels.
As the program evolved into the SHARP program it would later become in 2012, Washington proudly accepted the appointment as one of the three original enlisted SARCs. And though she never really needed the title to do what she had always done as a leader, it would become increasingly important for the rest of the division throughout the last couple of years.
For Army Maj. Charity O’Dell, former 10th Mountain Division SHARP director, Washington was a “trusted adviser” to the program managers and division leadership.
“She is a game-changer,” O’Dell said of Washington. “Her tactful and diligent navigation of a very sensitive program -- to focus on the positive, empower soldiers and commanders with resources and make lasting partnerships with SHARP partners -- has built a strong foundation for the future.”
In her two years as a division SARC, Washington helped to educate and train advocates at every level. She helped to establish the installation’s SHARP Resource Center and helped to build the bench of SHARP advisers from two dedicated civilian advocates into more than 600 credentialed soldier-advocates stationed at Fort Drum and Fort Polk, Louisiana.
Continues SHARP Duties in Afghanistan
During 10th Mountain Division’s deployment to Afghanistan, she continued her duties. As the director this time, she was alone for several months. She spearheaded the first SHARP consultation during command inspector general inspections of deployed units. During her journeys throughout eastern Afghanistan, Washington gathered troop concerns to provide advice to the commander. She gathered the deployed SHARP partners together to form a seamless program for all service members.
Washington, with her tall frame and seemingly stern look, can’t hide her drill sergeant past. Yet, she knows her success was, in large part, due to the tools she learned at Fort Leonard Wood in training those rough-around-the-edges civilians into soldiers she would eventually train for combat.
“It was challenging at times, but I was always honest with all my soldiers,” she said. “I’d tell them, ‘Six months after [advanced individual training], you could be on the first plane going to wherever necessary.’ For a lot of them, it wasn’t what they wanted to hear, but I told them what they needed to know.”
Deployment to Iraq
During her time at the 7th Engineer Battalion at Fort Drum, Washington deployed to Iraq, where she ran into many of her former recruits.
“I saw so many of them and they’d tell me, ‘You told us,’” she recalled.
Throughout her time as a SARC, Washington would draw on the qualities she had through her time as a drill sergeant during the Iraqi surge: compassion, understanding and dedication. And those qualities would become paramount to her duties as a SARC.
“We have to be dedicated to what this program stands for, and we need compassion for any soldier, civilian or family member who comes through that door all the time,” she said. “It’s those qualities, but the biggest is being yourself -- that strong leader.”
Despite plenty of earned admiration, Washington said she always understood that her ego had to be subordinate to the mission and those she was put there to help.
“Nothing that we get in that office is ever the same -- everything is always different and there may be different circumstances,” she said. “There are many times you may need assistance and you have to swallow your pride, pick up the phone, and call someone for help.”
And she did on many different occasions. Yet, it would be those times when she would admit to learning the most from the many different SHARP partners she has met.
‘Really Happy’ With Program
Washington finished her time as the 10th Mountain Division’s SARC shortly after her redeployment from Afghanistan, leaving a job she said she had grown to love. Although the SHARP program was stressful with a demanding work schedule, Washington said she enjoyed it from the moment she started.
As a SHARP pioneer, Washington said she is “really happy” with where the program is today, but admitted that there is still more that she wants to see.
“I think our training and facilitation is getting better, and we need to continue to work harder on it because we have gotten to the point where PowerPoint is not it,” she said. “We need more vignette-based training, and we need to be able to tell soldiers what happens to these harassers, these assaulters -- that’s what soldiers need to know.”
Her recent move to Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, will take her back to her firefighting roots. It’s something that Washington said she’s excited about, but she also will continue to take her vast SHARP program knowledge and experience wherever she goes.
“This move is not going to change anything that I do because I’ve always been the type of person who listens to a soldier -- always,” she said. “As far as the SHARP program, I’m going to continue to be proactive in the program.”