Thirty-nine deployed Soldiers from across U.S. Army Central's area of operations attended and graduated from the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course, July 25-30 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
The sixty-hour course consisted of a combination of lectures, interactive presentations, roleplaying exercises and group activities which equipped the Soldiers with the training they needed to make them qualified Equal Opportunity Leaders.
"An EOL is the eyes and ears of the commander," said Sgt. John Hogan, a satellite communication systems operator-maintainer with the 392nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion and an EOLC student.
The Army's Equal Opportunity policy protects from six categories of discrimination: race, color, gender, national origin, religion and sexual orientation. Treatment of all personnel should be based solely on merit, fitness and capability in support of readiness, according to Army policy.
"Our diversity is an asset, not something that divides us," Hogan said. "The Army is trying to educate people and bring to light our differences. EO is the respect of those differences."
This class was taught by eight Equal Opportunity Advisors.
"One of the jobs of an EOA is to mentor and train EOLs," said Sgt. 1st Class Lisa Paxton, the USARCENT Equal Opportunity Advisor and one of the EOLC instructors. "EOL are the subject matter experts of the Army's EO program at the company and battalion level. EOA's are the subject matter experts at the brigade level."
Paxton said while being an EOL and EOA can be challenging, she finds it to be worth it.
"Training Soldiers and commanders to treat each other with dignity and respect is extremely important," she said. "It builds esprit de corps. It makes better units. It helps the unit accomplish the mission."
Not all of the students in the course were first timers. This was the second time Staff Sgt. Beatriz Sanchez, a food service specialist with the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command, participated in the EOLC curriculum.
"I am actually taking it as a refresher course," Sanchez said. "I am already an EOL. I chose to take this course again because there have been some changes since I last took it. For example, there used to only be five categories and now there are six."
Sanchez said she has seen discrimination happen at all echelons of command while working as an EOL. That is why the Army sends people to these courses, so they can assist in preventing incidents of discrimination and assess the command climate, she said.
The Soldiers graduated this EOLC iteration July 30, 2016. The course conducted at Camp Arifjan quarterly.
"I'm impressed that this course was available, even in deployed conditions," Sanchez said.
The next class is scheduled October 17-22, 2016. Soldiers from the ranks sergeant promotable to first lieutenant are eligible to attend.
"We encourage Soldiers that are interested in assisting their commanders to please volunteer to attend the course," Paxton said. "We want Soldiers who are interested in being EOA."
Hogan said he feels better equipped to promote equality and fair treatment in his unit because of EOLC.
"This is my job now. It's my superpower. My responsibility."