CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – While discrimination is still an issue today, the U.S. Army continues efforts to eliminate it. U.S. KFOR Soldiers, from across Regional Command – East, learned skills required to help the Army achieve that goal during a six-day Equal Opportunity Leaders course on Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo, August 29 – September 3, 2019.
The Defense Department designed its EO program to ensure leaders in all defense organizations treat everyone associated with the military with dignity and respect.
During the 60-hour class, Soldiers assigned as unit EOLs attained the knowledge and understanding of what it takes to be the front line of defense against discrimination, which supports the local commanders’ EO programs.
“The goal of the EO program is to eliminate discrimination and harassment,” KFOR RC-E Equal Opportunity Advisor, U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Pablo Chavez said. “Being an EOA is not an easy job, because you must inform the chain of command and rely on the support of the EOLs at the unit level.”
Sgt. 1st Class Ty Pacheco and Master Sgt. Peter Alba, 21st Theater Sustainment Command EOAs, came from Germany to help facilitate the training. The training included 19 Soldiers from Task Forces Aviation, Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Public Affairs Detachment, Medical, Forward Command Post, Balkans National Support Element and the 44th Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Each task force selected these Soldiers based on the Soldier’s good judgment and ability to perform above average because they have what it takes to be there when called to assist.
“They are the front line of defense for the equal opportunity program,” Chavez said. “By ensuring a positive EO environment, they save thousands of dollars for the commanders and countless Soldier hours. In order to achieve our goal, it is imperative that EOLs push aside their personal biases and judgments.”
Demonstrating the ability to stay subjective in a situation that an EO leader would normally not agree with, is a sign of maturity.
“EO isn’t about your personal feelings or views,” said Chavez. “It’s about having a system in place through which Soldiers can report discriminative behavior so it can be corrected.”
Chavez emphasized that Soldiers who choose to be EOLs must understand the importance of looking below the surface.
“As EO practitioners, we have to look under the water at the whole iceberg to get the facts,” he said.
The course consisted of activities that granted Soldiers the opportunity to understand the importance of looking below the surface and putting away personal judgments and values.
In one role-play exercise, eight Soldiers pretended to sit on a “sinking boat.” In order to survive, they had to decide whom they would throw off the boat. The Soldiers wore nametags that described themselves and their occupation. The exercise pushed the Soldiers to ask the right questions to get a complete picture of a person, rather than simply judging them on initial impressions.
During another training block, the Soldiers played a game called Star Power, which focuses on the different social classes and how perceived social status’ affect the way people are treated. During the game, the Soldiers experienced how it felt to have someone discriminate against them based on social status.
“Everybody has varying degrees of biases, but as EOLs, or EOAs we have to learn how to put those aside so that we can make fair, unbiased decisions,” Chavez said. “Regardless of whether or not I agree with what they stand for, they are a human being, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”
Chavez also said discrimination is still a prevalent issue and his main goal is to educate Soldiers to assist the Army in eliminating this problem.
“I believe in the power of the chain reaction,” he said. “If I can make a change in just one or two people, and they can make a change in just one or two people, then we will slowly but surely begin to see a difference.”
||CAMP BONDSTEEL, ZZ
This work, RC-E works to improve equality across area of operations., by SGT Patrick Kirby, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.