U.S. Embassy’s Security Cooperation Office State Partnership Program

Georgetown – Last week the United States Embassy’s Security Cooperation Office, along with representatives from the Florida National Guard, conducted a subject matter expert exchange on Sexual Harassment Assault and Response Prevention (SHARP) with the Guyana Defence Force.  The exchange took place at the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard Base at Ruimveldt from February 10-12.  The event covered a myriad of topics including International Humanitarian Law, Sexual Harassment Prevention, and Human Rights.

The event was led by Captain Melissa Schuster of the Florida National Guard, the first female officer in the Florida National Guard to ever lead such an event in all of CARICOM.  She was assisted by Captain Anfernette Heyligar of the Guyana Defence Force.  Captain Heyligar is a recent graduate of a United States Army Gender Based Violence seminar and was instrumental in the success of this event as she is the Commander of the GDF Health and Welfare Unit.

The highly successful event was scenario driven in order to allow both enlisted ranks and officers to exchange in best practices of dealing with sexual harassment and assault prevention.  All Guyana Defence Force personnel were able to discuss tough topics and share ideas on how to address them in a professional manner.  The Florida National Guard team introduced their own lessons learned from SHARP incidents and in return the Guyana Defence Force did the same.  The teams discussed the similarities and differences in the incidents and learned tips and techniques to prevent and respond to future incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

This event has set the stage for future SHARP events in Guyana.  The U.S. Embassy’s Bilateral Affairs Officer is planning a senior level seminar on SHARP in 2016 in Guyana.  The event last week is part of a longstanding relationship between the Guyana Defense Force and the Florida National Guard through the State Partnership Program (SPP).  Members of the Florida National Guard have had several opportunities to share in SPP events such as Military Police Civil Disturbance, Non Commissioned Officer Leadership, Emergency Center Operation Visit, and Tactical Life Saver SMEE.  The Florida National Guard BAO plans to conduct nine more events this year.