JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. – Soldiers from around the country traveled to the 104th Training Division headquarters at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., in April for the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course. The course gives unit representatives the opportunity to develop tools to use within their units so that Soldiers can feel safe to seek help.
“We hope that in the end, the Soldiers who leave this course understand the EO program is more than an avenue to file complaints,” said Master Sgt. Jessie Tappin, EO advisor for the 104th TD, and host of the April event. “We hope they see its importance to unit readiness, cohesion, and mission success.”
Military Equal Opportunity focuses on maximizing human potential and ensuring fair treatment for all Soldiers based solely on merit, performance and potential, in support of readiness. The course helps equal opportunity leaders establish that culture and climate in their units.
“We are building and sustaining a ready, effective fighting force needed to win America’s wars. To do this, we need to eliminate practices that threaten the Army’s full use of our most valuable resource, our Soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Rodney Fischer, the division’s commanding general, in his address to the participants. “Your commanders are ultimately responsible for your unit’s MEO programs. However, they will be relying on you to be the unit’s subject matter expert on MEO issues. You will be their eyes and ears.”
Fischer took the time to facilitate an open discussion after his prepared remarks. That discussion allowed Soldiers attending the course to open up about their own experiences in a safe environment that expanded the dialogue of the course.
“The EOLC can be a tough course to go through, as everyone has their own unique experiences and perspectives on the topics we cover,” Tappin said. “Many students have had some difficult and painful experiences that get brought out in discussions, but hearing these stories are powerful when done in a safe environment.”
“Encourage your Soldiers to speak up if they see something that doesn’t seem right,” said Fischer, acknowledging not all Soldiers are willing to take that level of action. “It is best to do this directly with the offender, but if they don’t feel comfortable doing this, they should seek help from others.”
The situation that Fischer spoke about is where the equal opportunity leaders come in.
“Our main goal is to give our Soldiers the tools to create that safe space within their units,” said Tappin. “Overall, I would say that the EOLC was a success, and it was encouraging to see the students embrace the lessons with enthusiasm. I believe they all left with a positive attitude about EO, and a desire to build successful unit level EO programs.”