Post conducts first 'virtual' town hall meeting
November 22, 2013
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson's final town hall meeting of 2013 was conducted last week via Facebook.
Senior leadership and representatives from various directorates gathered Nov. 13 at the Emergency Operations Center to field questions from Soldiers, family members, civilians and retirees during an hour-long session. The post's U.S. Army Garrison Facebook page was used as the platform for the evening's discussion.
"In the past, if people didn't come to the town hall meeting, they didn't get to listen to the briefing," said Lewis Kellam, supervisor operations officer with the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security. "The information is passed to a lot more people than during a town hall meeting in a fixed facility."
Representatives from 12 directorates answered questions on topics ranging from health and human services, holiday sales at The Exchange, and traffic issues.
Leadership was prepared to research and answer questions posted by visitors.
Kellam said the virtual town hall meeting was a success.
"We had 27 questions, and a total of 9,446 people viewing the posts as of Nov. 14," he said. "And, there have been people who have been signing in since then to look at the questions. People are continuing to view the posts. The Facebook town hall meeting has proven we can reach more folks through social media than have attended any of our town hall meetings in the past."
"Fort Jackson's Facebook Town Hall provided another avenue for us as leaders at Moncrief Army Community Hospital to reach out to our patients in the community," said Col. Mark Higdon, MACH commander. "Everything that happens in all of our medical facilities revolves around our staff providing the best possible patient- and family centered care to our Soldiers, family members and retirees."
Interest in the evening's topics varied from directorate to directorate. Col. Jamie Houston, DENTAC commander, said he opted to share health tips with readers, who otherwise had few questions for him.
"Since DENTAC does not see family members, it was a quiet night, so I typed up my usually 'preventive trivia' and some guides to the best toothpastes on the market and why 'soft' drinks and energy drinks destroy enamel so effectively," Houston said.
Col. Michael Graese, Fort Jackson garrison commander, said he was pleased with the response to last week's experiment, which was the post's first "virtual" town hall meeting.
"I was extremely pleased with the participation and ability to provide near instant feedback to folks from the comfort of their homes or work," Graese said. "We will continue to improve the method of delivery to garner as much support as possible. Participation far exceeded the traditional town halls conducted over the last few years."
"Facebook enabled us to give immediate feedback our beneficiaries without them having to leave the comfort of their homes," Higdon said. "It also gave us the forum to address their concerns openly and honestly."