By Sgt. William WhiteApril 15, 2015
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (April 15, 2015) -- More than 40 stood by as racist and offensive statements were used against one of their peers. One Soldier, a female sergeant, had the courage to speak up. She challenged the authority within the room, but instead of speaking out to support her, the rest stood silently, waiting to see what would happen.
Without any support, she was removed from the room for speaking out. Now, out of fear, no Soldiers would speak up again and the offensive statements continued.
These 40 Soldiers are completing the Equal Opportunity Leaders' Course, or EOLC, at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. They have now seen how status and influence may create protective barriers for offenders within military ranks.
What if that brave non-commissioned officer had support? If more had voiced out against the authority would the statements have stopped?
"Many Soldiers, especially new Soldiers, may feel like they don't have a voice," said Sgt. 1st Class John Singletary, equal opportunity advisor for 1st Theater Sustainment Command. "When Soldiers feel like they don't have a voice, it becomes very difficult for them to complete their mission. It is the responsibility of equal opportunity leaders to know the climate of their command, and give those Soldiers a voice."
Singletary is one of the instructors for the EOLC. He explained that equal opportunity, or EO, leaders have a distinct role within their units, providing quarterly training designed to develop a more modern skill set for Soldiers.
"EO leaders and advisors are changing the way we see training in the Army," he said. "It's not always infantry tactics and troop leading procedures. What we, as EO leaders and advisors teach, is interpersonal skills, organizational skills, and self-development skills that will help them be better people, which makes them better Soldiers."
Singletary said that the training they give during the EOLC is designed to be emotionally powerful to emphasize the importance of the EO leader's role.
"For us as EO advisors and leaders, we train with our hearts. We have to train with passion because we have to internalize the concepts of the training," he said. "The students have to feel what it's like to be in that environment to understand it and become effective eyes and ears for their commander."
One of those students, Staff Sgt. Andre Grant, has anticipated becoming an EO leader and believes it is a responsibility that should be taken seriously.
"There has to be a level of cultural awareness within the military, especially at the leadership level, or you're not going to be able to lead these Soldiers," said Grant, a reserve Soldier from Canton, Massachusetts. "This role as an EO leader plays a vital part in being able to be that bridge between all those various social classes and backgrounds."
Grant explained that many Soldiers have experiences in their past that affect the way they feel about certain topics.
"We have to remember that Soldiers come from all walks of life and some carry old wounds," he said. "We have to be able to readily identify those things and help them along."
Grant and his classmates will graduate from the course, July 29. Singletary feels strongly that the graduating class will have a great impact in their commands.
"I hope [the students] leave with a sense of urgency and a sense of pride knowing that they play an important role in creating a better environment in their command," he said. "I feel like we in the military do a good job of recognizing that people are different and I think this training is a big part of that."