This summer, on 5 August, 25 Soldiers, including an active duty Soldier, one National Guard Soldier and 23 Army Reserve Soldiers, began the 108th Training Command’s Equal Opportunity Leaders Course at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM), Wash.
On 9 August, these EOLC graduates from different areas of the country became the next set of Officers and NCOs with the skills and knowledge to fulfill their duties of implementing the Army’s EO program and objectives in their respective units.
“EO leaders are the eyes and ears of the Commander” stated Ms. Moann E. Benson, Equal Opportunity Specialist, 108th Training Command and team lead for the course. “Effective EO leaders are able to communicate training requirements, policy requirements, issues and or concerns with the Commanders impacting the unit’s climate; and assists with action plans to improve the organization,” she added.
Facilitated by 10 Equal Opportunity instructors, sixteen classes and seven practical exercises were delivered during the first three days. The facilitators were a mix of personnel serving in different Civilian, officer and NCO positions within the 108th Training Command, 95th, 98th and 104th Training Divisions, 200th Military Police Command, and the Army Reserve Aviation Command.
“Having a diverse group of instructors; i.e. military, civilian, gender, and demographic make-up, provides students first with an image mirroring their organization and second, an array of experiences and knowledge to enhance the training they receive,” Ms. Benson emphasized.
The classes and practical exercises were held in different rooms at the Washington National Guard facility on JBLM. Lectures were given in the auditorium, practical exercises in the drill hall and the break-out sessions in several classrooms. On day one, students began at 0800 in the auditorium with a welcome from Col. Edward A. Wood, Deputy Commander for the 104th Division (Leader Training), and they also received the course overview from Ms. Benson and Master Sgt. Mark R. Fischer, EOLC co-host and Equal Opportunity Advisor with the 104th Division (LT). Students received a 181-page EOL guide containing comprehensive EOC information. The nearly 24 hours of instruction and over five hours of practical exercises, along with the guide, prepared students for class presentations and examinations on the last two days.
“The EOL course focuses on a mixture of topics from communication skills, learning your biases, how to address conflict between persons and touches on subjects like racism, sexism, and discrimination,” stated Fischer, who taught and co-led several classes and exercises during the course and has been instructing EOLC for two years (five cycles).
Both Fischer and Benson have long and wide-ranging careers that include instructing BNCOC/ANCOC PH1, Battle Staff, First Sergeant courses for Fischer and MOS courses (88N and 42A), NCO Development, Leadership, Common Skills (Soldier Tasks), SHARP, and EO for Benson who became instructor certified in 1997 and an EO Advisor in 2007.
“I am amazed by the level of knowledge, professionalism and experience they share with the class,” said Fischer, reflecting on his current co-instructors. “This makes me a better Equal Opportunity Advisor and a better person,” he added.
Staff Sgt. Joymarie R. Colon, travelling from Ocala, Florida to attend EOLC, initially believed “this is going to be another boring course where we sit through power point presentations and get a certificate” she stated candidly. However, after participating in the exercises and completing the course her opinion changed. “Right now, I think the course has taught me so much about myself that I didn’t have a clue and I’m grateful for that,” she enthused.
Also experiencing a new level of self-awareness, operations Sgt. Jacob T. Wiatrowski, assigned to the Headquarters Company, 333rd Military Police Brigade in Farmingdale, New York, said of the course, “[it] opened my own eyes and ears to see and hear offensive language, and demeaning behavior unbecoming of not just a Soldier, but any human being.” He also stated that he looks forward to his new role as a “change agent” addressing situations that make Soldiers uncomfortable. “Many times, we have failed our brothers and sisters by our blindness to the truths of stereotypes and forms of discrimination,” he explained.
Master Sgt. Patricia F. Kolcz, B Company, 3rd Battalion, 414th Regiment, 1st Brigade, 104th Training Division is also committed to ensuring proper Soldier treatment. Kolcz has served in different positions, company and staff, in her eighteen years of service. “I volunteered for this [EOL] position … I hope to use my experience, combined with this training, to improve the quality of military life experienced by the troops I have the opportunity to serve with,” she explained.
EO situations can be difficult and challenging. The EOL course presented lectures on topics including Socialization process, Values, Attitudes and Behaviors, Conflict Management, Racism and Sexism, and Effective Communication in order to help understand the complexities of human relations. The course is designed to build on necessary skills leading to professional solutions and handling issues at the lowest level.
Practical exercises such as Life Boat and Star Power gave Soldiers opportunities to have hands on experiences leading to a variety of insightful moments.
“Role playing exercises, interactive (educational/awareness) presentations create ‘ah-ha’ moments for different Soldiers…” Ms. Benson explained. One of those “ah-ha” moments happened for Colon in the Star Power exercise when she realized how important power is and how it is important to do the right thing once you have it.
Equal Opportunity Advisor Fischer further described the impact of the Star Power exercise.
“Star Power…is designed to show that people in power make the rules, their rules sometimes do not benefit the larger group but only a small select group of their choosing,” he stated. “These rules can sometimes lead to larger problems.”
Five days of instruction, practical exercises, breakout sessions, class presentations and a final examination culminated in graduation ceremonies and words of wisdom from the instructions. Each instructor had an opportunity to share words of wisdom to the graduating class before being dismissed. Several shared personal stories of pivotal EO experiences that changed their perspectives as Soldiers and leaders, as well as influencing their leadership skills throughout their careers and in some cases even their style.
The day concluded with the successful graduation of all twenty-five Equal Opportunity leaders, presentation of completion certificates to the new EOLs of class 300-EOL-004 and awards for instructors celebrating their contributions to the success of the training mission.
For more Equal Opportunity related information, visit the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute site at https://www.deomi.org.