Last spring Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey announced the "Not in My Squad" initiative which emphasizes responsibility of junior leaders when it comes to Soldier care.
Soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) Sustainment Brigade "Lifeliners," 101st Abn. Div., held "Not in My Squad" Week from Oct. 31. to Nov. 2., here.
According to Dailey, "Not in My Squad" is designed to empower leaders by building trust, cohesion, and taking ownership of achievements and failures within their group of Soldiers.
During the Lifeliner Brigade's four-day event, agencies from the brigade, to include Military Family Life Counselors, financial counselors, Master Resiliency Trainers, Equal Opportunity advisors, behavioral health counselors, and Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Program coordinators, taught interactive classes.
The Fort Campbell Army Substance Abuse Program also conducted classes with the help of the "That Guy" campaign by providing tools to help Soldiers understand how alcohol or substance abuse affects the function of their bodies.
Leaders decided which classes to attend based on what additional training they felt their Soldiers needed.
Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Perry, senior enlisted advisor for the 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde., said that the "Not in My Squad" Week coordinators chose classes that would educate leaders and Soldiers to better build trust with each other, which leads to building readiness within the team and unit.
"This [training] is important to the readiness of our Army," said Perry. "We had to take [a] dynamic approach [to teaching] and making Soldiers understand why [the training] is important."
Perry added that his intent for the event was to target the junior noncommissioned officers and junior enlisted Soldiers.
"When it comes to SHARP and alcohol-related incidents, the demographics show that it is between the ages of 18-and 24-years-old," said Perry. "That population happens to be in the squad or section leader and below level and that's how we came up with the vision of bringing all these [programs] together."
Sgt. Tia Jones, a human resource noncommissioned officer and squad leader in 101st Human Resource Company, 101st Special Troops Battalion, 101st Abn. Div. Sust. Bde., and her four Soldiers attended several of the classes provided throughout the week.
"We learned a lot, not only about [the programs], but about our squad as a whole," said Jones. "We learned that our attitudes are important when it comes to teamwork, and that we can succeed as a team by teaching and sharing information with each other."
Each morning during the four days, Soldiers of the "Lifeliner" Brigade participated in physically demanding activities that made it crucial for leaders and Soldiers to work together.
Jones said she and her squad had fun during the physical events.
"We were learning and getting a good workout," said Jones "We were also able to see our weaknesses and strengths both physically and mentally."
Jones added that her Soldiers were extremely motivated throughout the classes and challenges of the four-day event.
"Not in My Squad" Week concluded with a guest speaker, Staff Sgt. Mary Valdez, who is a survivor of sexual assault.
"Any chance or opportunity I get to tell my story is a healing process for me," said Valdez, who is currently stationed at Fort Drum, New York. "To know that I'm helping Soldiers, whether they are survivors or not, is like a therapy for me."
Perry, who introduced Valdez to the Soldiers before her presentation, said it takes a lot of courage for a survivor to be able to share their story with others, but hopes that if Soldiers see and hear a fellow Soldier's story it will influence them in a more powerful way.
Valdez showed the Soldiers a video where she tells her story about not only the assault, but also her healing process. After the video, she discussed with the Soldiers in depth about her healing process, read a poem that she wrote after the assault, and answered any questions they had for her.
"I hope that by seeing that I overcame that hurdle and regained control over my life, that it will help other Soldiers possibly regain theirs," she added.
Valdez added that she shares her story because she wants Soldiers to understand that it happens within their ranks, and that sexual harassment and assault is a serious issue that Soldiers need to understand.
Perry added that although this is the first time the brigade held the event, it will not be the last.
After receiving feedback from the leaders and Soldiers of the brigade, Perry said he hopes "Not in My Squad" Week can become a semi-annual event within the organization.