By Mr. Kenneth Fidler (IMCOM)July 2, 2008
YONGSAN GARRISON, Republic of Korea - Barbara Quillin has a simple theory: "If you just help one person at a time and that's all you do, at least you're making some progress for somebody."
It's a philosophy that has served her well over her 25-year federal career and most recently earned her the Secretary of the Army Award for Outstanding Achievement for Equal Employment Opportunity-EEO Professional Category for 2007, after only seven months as the Installation Management Command-Korea EEO director.
"It makes me feel good to touch people's lives," she said. "That why I love my job so much."
She manages the Korea Region EEO program, which is designed to provide an environment free of unlawful employment discrimination for all U.S. civilian employees. It is based on federal laws and includes the EEO complaint program and affirmative employment program, along with special emphasis programs that overcome barriers restricting equal employment opportunities for women, minorities and individuals with disabilities.
When an employee visits EEO for assistance, Quillin believes it's important to resolve the problem fast. Federal law allows the EEO program up to 30 days to resolve a complaint at what's called the informal stage before the employee can file a formal complaint. But she prefers complaints to be solved as quickly as possible.
"We do a lot of mediation and settle cases that way so they don't go forward further," she explained. "Many complaints can be settled quickly that way if we can just get people to talk. Many situations occur just because of a lack of communication. We want to give managers the opportunity to fix it before it gets worse, because the longer the problems lay there, the worse it becomes."
When she arrived in Korea in April 2007, she immediately put in action processes that paid off at previous assignments.
"I like to always try to improve the program," she said. "When this program is broke, then we're hurting the people who come to us for help. We are not giving them "due process" that they are entitled to in a timely fashion. "
Some of the improvements she made were:
Aca,!Ac Set up Special Emphasis Program committees to promote employment opportunities for women, minorities and individuals with disabilities and address issues.
Aca,!Ac Shortened complaint processing times by implementing region-wide use of the DOD's Investigations and Resolutions Division electronic file transfer system. This allows instant sharing of documents with investigators in the United States and took weeks off the administrative time to process an investigation.
Aca,!Ac Made it tougher to approve extensions past the 30-day mark to file a formal complaint. "We've got everyone completing their complaints in 30 days or less the informal stage," she said.
Aca,!Ac Created a common computer drive so each garrison EEO office in Korea can share documents easier. "If a Garrison EEO officer will be gone for an extended period of time, we can have them upload all their documents to that drive and we can manage their cases from here," Quillin said. "We don't want customers to wait."
Aca,!Ac Established quarterly meetings with all garrison EEOs to discuss issues as a group, look at training schedules and detail EEOs to cover another's extended absence. "We never cancel training at a Garrison," she said. "We dispatch someone else to cover for them."
She credits former IMCOM-Korea Commanding General Brig. Gen. Al Aycock with "an incredible amount of unwavering support for EEO at the region. Under his leadership and support, all Garrisons were staffed with EEO managers and have Special Emphasis committees for the first time since IMCOM's inception," she said.
She was also recognized for her personal interest in training and mentoring new EEO officers to help develop their career paths.
"I've mentored people for a long time," she said. "It's one of the things in life that gives me the most pleasure."
At U.S. Army Garrison-Daegu, the furthest Garrison from the region headquarters, EEO officer Christine Alston no longer feels "as if I'm out here alone."
Alston has been the Daegu EEO officer for four years, much of that time the only EEO officer in Korea. She said Quillin came in and established a region program where there had been none and provided the oversight and facilitation Alston needed.
"We don't have much flexibility in our program because of the rules and regulations under which we work," Alston said. "Since Barbara arrived, though, she has really helped relieve the pressure of facilitating our processes with the region and with IMCOM headquarters. She has formed a team environment among the Garrison EEO officers and really helps keep us on point."
Helping others is a trait that she said she's always enjoyed about her work in EEO, which began in the early 90's when Quillin was working with the Patriot Missile Defense System at Fort Bliss, Texas.
She saw an announcement for an EEO collateral duty counselor, an additional duty that would take up about 20 percent of her time. "I thought, 'Wow this sounds really exciting.' So I put in for it and my supervisor agreed. I started counseling and just loved it. Every one around me immediately said, 'Looks like you're in the wrong business.' I decided they were right."
That was in 1993. In 1997, she was hired as a full-time EEO complaints manager at the Fort Bliss office and formalized her career shift.
"My career just changed," she said. "I just love it so much. I like to fix things and put puzzle pieces together, and I had a high resolution rate. The lawyers at Bliss said I wrote the best reports they've ever seen."
She moved to Bad Kreuznach, Germany, in 1999 as the EEO officer, then returned to Fort Bliss two years later as the complaints manager and disability program manager. In 2003, she moved to the Army's Tank and Automotive Command in Warren, Mich., as the command's complaints manager. Before moving to Korea, she worked at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, overseeing the IMCOM West Region complaints program for 10 installations.
Helping people is not just a job requirement, Quillin said. It's always been her passion, whether it's mentoring a new EEO installation counselor or helping an employee through the complaint process.
During her second tour at Fort Bliss, she put together an information packet on the Department of Defense's Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program that gives federal employees with disabilities free assistive technology to improve their working conditions. Quillin said she would visit work centers and give presentations on the program.
In one office she visited, three people had macular degeneration, an eye condition that reduces central vision and makes it difficult to read or see fine details.
"We were able to help them," she recalled. "One of the gentlemen came to my office and said, 'Can I give you a hug' They were trying to force me out because of my eyesight, but I wasn't ready to go yet. I can't tell you how much this means to me.' He was able to continue working to retirement age."
Though her name appears on the award plaque, she said the recognition goes to her staff and the IMCOM-Korea leadership whose collective efforts helped improve the EEO program.
"The award was never achieved by one person, but rather through the work of an entire EEO staff and the support of management," she said. "I am so grateful to have a great staff that has new and innovative ideas, suggestions and talents."