FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Staff Sgt. Veronica Dennison, a motor transport operator with Headquarters Support Company, 7th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., was a Soldier who endured a period of time where she was the target discrimination. It was several years ago, when she was a younger Soldier, just trying to accomplish her mission.
"We were downrange in Afghanistan, and our platoon sergeant would refer to me as 'that b***'," Dennison said. "He would have someone go tell me to do something and would refer to me as 'that b***'. I heard about it but just pushed it aside and did my mission."
Dennison finally had enough when one day she was late to a formation due to a mission that only she could do and her punishment was shared with the other females present.
"When I failed to meet his time he conducted a half-hour to 45 minute smoke session," Dennison said. "He decided to smoke all of us, except the male Soldier - he had to stand there and watch and not say anything."
"We did everything from push-up to sit-ups, flutter kicks to jumping jacks all in the hot box," said Dennison. "He used an antennae to point at us and used derogatory terms. He would insult us and belittle us."
Fortunately for the Soldiers involved, there was, and still is, a system in place to handle this kind of incident and work toward a goal of equal and fair treatment for all Soldiers - the Equal Opportunity Program.
"We filed an EO compliant," Dennison said "We used our chain of command, and it worked."
Dennison, like many others throughout time was determined not to be a victim.
She and 65 other Soldiers recently attended the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course at the Fort Lewis Military Museum, Oct. 27 - Nov. 3.
The Army's EOLC uses a building-block concept and develops a base of knowledge and skills that allow graduates to assess human relations climate in the organizations they serve, and to provide advice and assistance to commanders to prevent, reduce, or eliminate discriminatory practices.
Graduates like Dennison now possess skills required to advise commanders in the conduct of informal equal opportunity complaints, conduct unit level equal opportunity training, assist in climate assessments, assist in ethnic observances, and serve as the primary resource manager of equal opportunity matters within the unit.
"They learn about things like racism, sexism, power and discrimination," said Sgt. 1st Class Rodrick Jordan, EO adviser with 593rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 7th ID, JBLM. "They learn how to do focus groups, command climate surveys and how to remain unbiased."
"We are training leaders to go back to be change agents within their organization to ensure Soldiers are being treated equally across the board," said Jordan.
Soldiers must be sergeant promotable through first lieutenant, and have one year remaining in the unit upon completion of the course.
Discrimination does not only affect females, it can affect any race, color, gender, religion or national origin and it is not tolerated in the military. Jordan said these trained leaders can help commanders to combat this invisible foe.
"The end goal is to train leaders to be the eyes and ears of the commander and make the Army more effective," said Jordan. "They know what right looks like and can enforce the standard."