By Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr.
Fort Jackson Commanding General

It has been a while since I last published a "What's on my mind" article in the Leader. Based on the frequency and level of participation in town hall forums that we conduct as an installation, there are ample opportunities for me to share my thoughts, hear the concerns of the installation and solicit ideas.

My assessment is that things are going very well across Fort Jackson, but there is always room for improvement. In addition, even when things are going smoothly, there are things that come up (good and bad) to disrupt our installation's equilibrium. The focus of this article is to highlight a few of those things that I want everyone to be aware of and to share in the responsibility and obligation to improve our community.

Veteran Access
As of Jan. 1, the Department of Defense expanded the installation access to more of the veteran population. Specifically, expanded access is extended to Purple Heart recipients, disabled veterans and care takers of disabled veterans. So what does this mean for Fort Jackson? We will see an increase of gate congestion and longer lines in the Exchange, Commissary and other locations. The standard graduation traffic of Wednesdays and Thursdays may be increased. Increased demand on our facilities may sound like a recipe for a disaster and disruption of our normal routine and expectations if we don't respond accordingly and plan appropriately.

I am confident that our planning will adhere to this new DOD directive and safely allow access to the designated veterans. Our Directorate of Emergency Services has followed all of the procedures in conjunction with the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure the proper vetting and identification of authorized veterans. It is estimated that more than 30,000 veterans in South Carolina alone may benefit from the new installation access policy that could impact Fort Jackson. It is doubtful that only Fort Jackson would see this influx, but is it always prudent to plan. Veterans will have access to other installations across South Carolina such as Shaw Air Force Base and Charleston Naval Station. Some may even travel from as far as Fort Bragg, North Carolina or Fort Stewart, Georgia based on this new policy.

Where we need to improve is in our ability to absorb this potential influx of personnel to key locations such as the Exchange, Commissary, Shoppettes, Class Six, etc. My intent is not to drive our resident population off the installation due to a lack of poor customer service, depleted stocks or extended waits in locations that are specifically designed for resident and work force convenience. In conjunction with our Garrison Team, I will personally be involved in ensuring that various locations make the appropriate adjustments to make veteran access transparent to our residents and workforce.

As a dose of reality, traffic and gate hours will most likely remain a continued source of friction. In all transparency, an increase in traffic as a result of this policy is unavoidable. With regard to gate changes, we will have little to no change in this area either (especially Gate 5 access hours) simply due to manpower reductions of the Department of the Army Security Guard (gate guard) workforce. We will continue to enforce access control measures to protect our patrons and residents and adjust Force Protection Condition (FPCON) measures in accordance with security protocols.

Pharmacy
For a multitude of reasons that are too numerous to cover in this article, we are failing our Soldiers, Families and veterans with our pharmacy operations. In all transparency, the commander of Moncrief Army Health Clinic has solicited outside experts to assist us in identifying the root causes of internal operation problems that have caused an increase of wait times and delays within our pharmacy.

To compound matters, clinic renovations are a partial contributor, but not the sole reason behind the delays. I have been engaged with this problem for the past several months and as indicated by feedback and comments, we are honestly not getting any better at reducing wait times for prescriptions.

By the middle of January, we should begin to see some improvement. Things such as hand-written prescriptions are a major culprit in delaying timely medicine refills. All hand-written "scripts" have to be replicated in the medical computer system before processing, which takes additional time. So if you receive a hand-written script from a medical provider, ask the provider to place the prescription in the medical computer network so that it is easier to receive, read and fill in a timely manner. We will provide periodic updates on pharmacy fixes in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, continue to provide your feedback by any and all means. Feedback both good and bad is welcomed and will help us improve our pharmacy procedures.

"In Reach"
One of my four priorities is command outreach. It is my assessment that we do and have been doing a tremendous job sharing and telling the Army and Fort Jackson story. Our community, both locally and in the surrounding area, has a much fuller grasp on what the Soldiers, civilians and Families of Fort Jackson do and the sacrifices they make for our nation. On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being best, it is my assessment that we are somewhere in the eight to nine range regarding command outreach.

Things such as Come Meet Your Army tours, social media updates/posts, engagement within the community have all bolstered our ability to connect with our community and close the civilian to military gap. Nonetheless, we have a bigger problem internal to our gates.

"In-Reach," or our ability to reach our Soldiers, leaders, civilians and Families with information internal to our gates is not where it needs to be. If outreach is at an eight plus on the scale, our "in-reach" is about a five minus on that same scale. Too frequently, a common phrase internal to our gates regarding things happening on Fort Jackson is "I Didn't Know" or as I commonly refer to it "IDK," pronounced "Eye Dee Kay."

Much effort has been put into increased communication in the Leader, our marquee on Strom Thurmond Boulevard and multiple social media platforms from agencies ranging from Army Community Services to Child and Youth Services. We even have a Command Channel on Spectrum (channel 1304) that has been in existence for the better part of a year, yet many will say, "IDK."

From town halls on multiple levels dealing with Housing, Climate and Child and Youth Services, a common refrain is "IDK." We haven't been able to disseminate information for a lack of effort on anyone's part. What we have not been able to do is generate the sense of urgency to get our Soldiers, Families and civilians interested enough in the welfare of our installation to actually read the Leader, view the Command Channel, social media or attend a multitude of feedback sessions.

Here is where I ask for your help. If you are reading this, share what you have read. Strive to get one person to turn to the Command Channel, read the Leader or visit a social media site. Misinformation travels faster than the speed of sound and accurate information flows at a snail's pace.

We owe it to ourselves and our internal community to ensure accurate and timely information is being shared in abundance. We can help our internal "in-reach" efforts on disseminating and distributing information simply by sharing information and encouraging others to inform and educate themselves on our installation.