FORT DIX, NJ, UNITED STATES
FORT DIX, N.J. — Words, like bullets, can be used to hurt Soldiers. Over time, derogatory statements and acts of discrimination can undermine a unit’s ability to perform from home station to the battlefield.
The 353rd Civil Affairs Command realized it’s up to equal opportunity leaders to impact its subordinate units so they hosted an Equal Opportunity Leaders Course for the next generation of Army leaders.
“Everyone in today’s Army should have a level playing field when it comes to race, color, gender, and religion,” said Sgt. Jessica Stevens, a human resources noncommissioned officer with the 415th Civil Affairs Battalion located in Kalamazoo, Mich. “I feel when it comes to promotions and awards it should all be based on work performance.”
During the weeklong course, 23 Soldiers learned various subjects from System/Victim Focus to the Tattoo Decision Support Matrix. Students also took part in EO based role-playing scenarios and gave presentations on key historical figures who advocated for civil rights.
“I really got a lot out of this class by learning to be sensitive to other people’s needs and realizing that everyone is different,” said Stevens. “You could have a racist Soldier come into the Army and if they don’t get the training then they don’t learn how to behave when interacting with people of different cultures.”
With 60 hours of classroom instruction, students learned lessons from current EO cases with instructors driving home the point that as EOL’s, Soldiers must always be impartial and vigilant in any work environment.
“This is about being a positive combat multiplier, which people might say ‘oh that Soldier is an EOL so maybe we shouldn’t do bad things,’ which will make Soldiers want to do the right thing and be professional,” said Master Sgt. Anthony Steglik, U.S. Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) Equal Opportunity Adviser.
“If an EOL walks by someone who’s saying an inappropriate joke or sees that someone is being picked on, then they have the awareness to walk by and say ‘you know what, that’s wrong’ and from there a positive energy can move forward,” added Steglik.
During one of the exercises, Soldiers were given poker chips with different numerical values. Over the course of three rounds, Soldiers who shook hands were locked into trading chips with one another with the goal of amassing the most points.
Stevens said the exercise really hit home when she found herself with one of the lowest scores, which equated her to being a part of the “lower” class of society. She said the exchange of game and exercise ideas would help keep her and her counterparts.
“Before we had no EOL’s in our battalion and now we have six who have graduated this course,” said Stevens. “I think collaboratively we can come up with a great program and great training for our Soldiers that’s not just a slide show. We expect to do some fun and entertaining training.”
Steglik said the key to a good equal opportunity program is awareness and the most important job of an EOL is knowing how to help people.
“A lot of units and groups that know each other have a good command climate,” said Steglik. “Those that don’t are the ones with the problems because people refuse to be personal. If a Soldier gets into a car accident, the first thing that comes out of your mouth shouldn’t be ‘hey are you coming to drill?’ It should be ‘how are you doing?’ or ‘are you okay?’ or ‘can I do anything?’ then talk about battle assemblies later.”
Stevens said Soldiers coming out of basic are very impressionable and take on the characteristics of their cadre so courses such as this help shape a stronger civil affairs unit.
“Knowledge is power and it is each EOL’s responsibility to teach the Soldiers what they have learned,” said Stevens. “This is what civil affairs does by talking to different people and you have to have that knowledge and understanding that everyone is different. When you’re talking to a sheik or clan leader you’re going to have to understand that they’re not going to have the same values as you so a class like this helps you become sensitive to their needs and beliefs.”
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This work, Shaping a stronger Army: 353rd CACOM hosts EOL Course, by SSG Gregory Williams, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.