'We Care' program reflects 214th Fires Brigade concern for Soldiers
October 6, 2011
FORT SILL, Okla. -- A new program at the 214th Fires Brigade takes high-risk Soldiers and immerses them in training designed to strengthen them physically, emotionally and spiritually to set them up for success.
The program breaks away from traditions of just punishing Soldiers who have committed offenses, and instead emphasizes counseling and corrective education so they can learn from their mistakes, learn coping strategies and so can continue their Army careers.
The "We Care" getaway provided Soldiers and their immediate supervisors with physical training, classroom instruction and counseling sessions at Forward Operating Base Mow-Way here, where they bivouacked Sept. 28-30.
"I thought it was great," said Pvt. Garonda Lemon, 696th Forward Support Company logistician. "It showed that the brigade leaders really care about us."
Lemon said one of the most beneficial sessions for her was personal finance.
"I think one of the biggest problems in the Army for young Soldiers is their finances," she said.
Thirty-two Soldiers attended the training which was open to everyone in the brigade, said Col. Timothy Daugherty, 214th FiB commander. Some of the Soldiers were required to be there with their immediate supervisors, others were recommended to take the training and still others volunteered, because they believed they could benefit. Whatever the reason for his or her being there was that Soldier's business.
Army high-risk behavior includes underage drinking, being a novice motorcycle rider, being a minor and first-term Soldier, drug use or excessive alcohol, said a supervisor who attended the training.
Soldiers heard from the Fort Sill inspector general, military police and attorneys from Office of the Staff Judge Advocate, as well as numerous Fort Sill instructors and contracted presenters. Classes ranged from time management to intimate partner violence to staying positive and motivated to healthy relationships through separations.
The reason for having the program for three days at a FOB was mainly to get rid of distracters for the Soldiers, Daugherty said.
"No matter what our rank, there are things that influence us on a daily basis that get in our way of problem solving," he added. "We thought if we could get them to commit to themselves for three days then we will turn a better product out to society, their families and the Army."
And, research shows that many Soldiers verbalize issues more efficiently at night, he said. So Soldiers were talking with their first-line leaders and hearing from Daugherty and Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Giles, 214th "Leader Brigade" CSM in the evening.
"We're having some of our best off-line work at night helping Soldiers solve problems," Daugherty said.
Sgt. 1st Class Demetrius Jones, 609th FSC platoon sergeant, said "We Care" is a reflection of the transformation and downsizing of the Army.
"I have never seen a program like this in my 22 years of service," said Jones. "Before, it was if you did the crime, you did the time. This is an alternative -- to deter our Soldiers from getting into trouble."
Darlene Pittman, Fort Sill Army Substance Abuse Program instructor, provided training on suicide prevention and received feedback from the attendees.
"Overall, they said it was informative and that they liked it," she said.
Sgt. Curtis Davis Jr., 696th FSC Prescribed Load List Office noncommissioned officer in charge, said he gained much from the training that he will take back to his unit.
"It taught me a lot of things on how to be a better leader," he said.
Davis added this new approach to discipline will help young Soldiers.
"It's giving Soldiers a second chance and is boosting their morale," he said. "It makes Soldiers want to 'go get it' and advance in their Army careers."
Spc. Won Kim, A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery, said he learned a lot from the equal opportunity and suicide prevention training. And, the sensing sessions with the brigade leaders were particularly effective.
"We were talking about how to improve our units and the brigade," he said. "We had a good time with that, and it was really educational."
Daugherty said that sometimes young Soldiers need to have that candid interaction with their senior leaders.
"We don't have it all figured out either," the colonel said. "I have some of the same stresses in life that they have, and I wanted them to understand some of the pressures that I've put on the chain of command to treat them with respect and dignity. I want them to understand some of the standards that exist within this brigade."
High-risk Soldiers have to understand they must meet the command at least halfway, Daugherty said.
"You can't force someone to care," he said. "At some point the Army will determine if it is detrimental to the well-being of the unit if we continue to work with this one Soldier because I'm taking away all my effort from the unit to work with just him or her."
Although it will take time to realize if the program benefits the Army and Soldiers, Daugherty knows not doing it won't help anyone.
The 214th FiB plans to make "We Care" a quarterly training program.