Panthers receive Quality of Life award
April 20, 2011
- Secretary of the Army awards Fort Benning unit for social media achievement
- Annual awards program recognizes initiatives other installations could adopt
FORT BENNING, Ga. - A Fort Benning basic training battalion is among nine Quality of Life Award winners announced April 8 by the Secretary of Defense.
The 192nd Infantry Brigade's 2nd Battalion, 47th Infantry Regiment earned an honorable mention in the communication category for "developing unique and creative communication abilities with families of initial entry training Soldiers," officials said.
Awards are presented annually for initiatives that installations and commands worldwide could emulate.
Undersecretary of the Army, Joseph Westphal, presented the awards Tuesday during the Association of the U.S. Army Installation Symposium in San Antonio, Texas.
"The battalion's success in employing traditional and non-traditional communication techniques has built a lasting community network which has significantly improved Soldier and family quality of life," judges said.
Last year, the cadre of the "Panther" battalion launched a social media campaign to connect the unit with families of trainees. The battalion's mission is to conduct 10-week basic training for new Soldiers. The battalion's six companies have roughly 1,500 in various phases of training at any given time.
"It was built upon the backs of our drill sergeants and spouses who took the time out of their busy schedules to help these families," said Lt. Col. Wayne Brewster, the battalion's commander, adding they deserve the credit for the initiative's success.
"We were sitting together with the cadre ... and the drill sergeants said 'here's an opportunity to bring young Soldiers' families into the fold,'" he said. The battalion already had a website aimed at bringing families of cadre together, but realized they could expand it and reach a greater audience - basic trainees and their families.
Their website, www.2-47panthers.org, provides links to company Facebook pages, news articles, graduation information, family readiness groups, photos, maps, newcomer's guides and links to local organizations.
The website is the key piece in the battalion's social media triumvirate, as Brewster calls it.
The Panthers also have a Flickr photo website, where cadre and family readiness groups upload photos of Soldiers in training, and a Facebook page, where they answer questions and put out information. They host discussion groups for each of the battalion's companies on the Fort Benning Facebook page as well as groups for Soldiers headed off to advanced individual training. Here families can connect with each other, offer support and get advice as they learn about the Army.
Social media allows the battalion to reach out to families as quickly as possible.
Traditionally, a welcome letter is sent to families shortly after troops arrive at basic training. The letter can take two to three weeks to reach families. With the addition of the website, families now have information at their fingertips within 48 hours of their Soldiers' arrival.
Brewster said it makes a huge difference for families "who are dealing with separation from their loved one."
Additionally, help is only a click away. Families can reach out to the battalion through social media if issues arise while a Soldier is in training. Brewster cited a Soldier whose pregnant wife was due to give birth while he was in training. Cadre arranged for the Soldier to be home for the birth and later return to resume training where he left off.
"It creates a bond between us and the families - you're not just this mythical being behind the curtain like the Wizard of Oz. You are welcoming them into the profession," he said.
About the secretary of the army Quality of Life Awards program
The program is in its third year and recognizes individual and command efforts to improve Soldier and family quality of life.
The awards are progressive in nature, with recognition being given at the local, regional and headquarters level. Finalists from each command are forwarded to the Department of Army's selection panel, which reviews and ranks nominations. The competition is open to all Army commands, service component commands, direct reporting units, National Guard and reserve units.
For more information, visit www.acsim.army.mil.
Other award winners:
Superior Quality of Life Award for large unit or installation:
Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, U.S. Army Garrison, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Superior Quality of Life Award for medium-sized unit or installation:
U.S. Army Garrison, Yongsan, Korea.
Superior Quality of Life Award for small unit or installation:
U.S. Army Garrison, Presidio of Monterey, Calif.
Command Team Quality of Life Award:
U.S. Army Garrison Command Team, Carlisle Barracks, Pa.
Special Recognition Award:
Maneuver Support Center of Excellence Command Team, Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
Best Practices Award:
Army Community Service and Directorate of Human Resources, 1st Infantry Division and U.S. Army Garrison, Fort Riley, Kan.
Quality of Life Partnership Award:
The Meade Alliance, U.S. Army Garrison, Fort George G. Meade, Md.
Quality of Life Award for Communication Excellence:
Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Marketing Team, U.S. Army Garrison, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.