By T. Anthony BellAugust 25, 2016
JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. (Aug. 25, 2018) -- A battalion training directive to teach Army Values to advanced individual training troops has turned into a widely anticipated learning endeavor for students assigned to Echo Company, 266th Quartermaster Battalion.
Echo Co. -- which houses transportation AIT students -- was tasked with teaching concepts like selfless service, duty and respect on a weekly basis.
"We took it a step further," said Capt. Jamar L. Jenkins, Echo Co. commander. "As part of our graduation requirement, we wanted each class to ensure they've taken hold of the information by having them execute an Army Values campaign skit with the intent of providing Soldiers with 'a professional identity and becoming more resilient.' Those were our top two priorities."
Weekly, each Echo platoon is tasked with creating a video that best conveys one of the Army Values. In the production process, Soldiers use their cellphones, tech know-how and creativity to drive home the messages. One video, about four minutes long, was based on scenes from the movie "Forrest Gump." The results have ranged in quality from rudimentary to polished pieces, but that's not the point, said Jenkins.
"These Soldiers are competing against each other to have the best skit," he said. "We tied it into a competition for the best platoon. They want to do this. Even on the weekends, they want to be the best because again, as soon as they get here, we tell them our motto is 'Exceed the Standard, Raise the Bar.' No one here wants to be average. With that being said, on the weekends during their personal time, they want to be better than the last skit. They want to have more views than the last platoon."
The "views" in which Jenkins refers are the number of times the video has been played on social media websites. Even more important than the competitive aspects, the work to produce the videos has a teaching effect -- an impact that might influence how Soldiers behave in the future.
"Because it is tied to a competition, there is motivation and there's ambition," said Jenkins, "and the residual effect of that is the Soldiers really take hold of these Army Values. Before they go out and do something wrong, something that might lead to UCMJ action or a chapter (out of the Army), they're going to think about those messages they learned in the skits."
Jenkins said he has had Soldiers tell him the training has really made a difference, pointing out he has not removed any of them from active duty since he came aboard as commander earlier this year.
"It's important at my level because we might chapter Soldiers out of the Army or administer UCMJ actions (reduced pay or rank), and those are things that end up hurting the morale and discipline of the unit," said Jenkins. "If we're able to teach these Soldiers to be more resilient and give them a professional identity right now, the bottom line is we save the Army money and create better Soldiers."
Pvt. Robert Goodwin, an Echo Co., student, said the hands-on learning -- putting one's thoughts, ideas and energy into a video project -- is far more relevant to his peers than skimming a hand-out.
"When we do the videos, it allows us to go more in-depth rather than just read a piece of paper," said the 18-year-old Rocklin, Calif., native. "It allows us to actually act it out so we can better understand what it means to live those Army Values."
The student hangout place -- a section of outdoor bleachers where Soldiers typically bond -- also is part of the lure, providing "production crews" the means to share ideas in a relaxed environment.
"It was a lot of fun; something to definitely relieve the stress," said Pfc. Chaun Fluker, an Echo Co. student, recalling the work on his platoon's video product. "It wasn't your typical training environment stuff."
Non-typical in such a way that even platoon sergeants -- who normally balk at any endeavor that could potentially add time to their already stretched schedules -- have bought into because they are not barking orders but rather exchanging information, said Echo Co. 1st Sgt. Andy Hardy.
"The Army Values training gives the platoon sergeant opportunities to share their experiences," he said. "It creates a dialogue with the students."
The communication tentacles of social media, however, may have been the biggest draw for students, added Hardy.
"When they get a chance to see themselves (on social media) performing the values, they go through a revival," he said, noting students arrive with the perception that most training is boring but necessary. "When they get a chance to do something new, something in which they can show their talent, they just get excited about it."
The notion the videos could serve to promote positive behavior goes over the head of most students, added Hardy, but they are indirectly learning the values through the planning, organization and research required to complete the video projects. As a result, he has seen fewer problems with students, who, while in AIT, are confronted with various freedoms not available to them in basic training.
"The discipline problems have gone way down," he said. "I have fewer problems than when I started. The Army Values campaign has been a big part of it."
Echo Co. has roughly 200 assigned Soldiers training in four different Transportation Corps military occupational specialties.
To view the videos, visit the Echo Co., 266th QM Bn. unit page at facebook.com.