1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A students tells his classmates what he learned about himself, what has changed within him, and an important takeaway from the Equal Opportunity Leaders Course June 4, 2020, at Fort Sill. Eleven Soldiers in EOLC Class No. 20-05 are now qualified equal opportunity representatives at their respective batteries, companies, and battalions at the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill. (Photo Credit: Fort Sill Tribune staff) VIEW ORIGINAL
2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Sgt. 1st Class Refugio Johnson, Fort Sill Equal Opportunity adviser, instructs students about the Badge Takedown activity they are about to perform June 4, 2020, in Bldg. 4700. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Students in Equal Opportunity Leaders Course Class No. 20-05, listen to a classmate's presentation June 4, 2020, at Fort Sill. Eleven students complete the training to become unit equal opportunity representatives at the battery/company level. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (June 11, 2020) -- A Soldier who is living the Army values. One who is a listener, who is unbiased, trustworthy, and understands that equality is for all, and that diversity matters. Those are the qualities the Army looks for when selecting its equal opportunity advisors (EOA) and representatives (EOR).

Eleven Soldiers completed the Fort Sill Installation Equal Opportunity Leaders Course (EOLC) Class No. 20-05, on June 4. The seven-day course qualifies the leaders as EORs to handle informal EO complaints at the battery/company and battalion-level. It is an additional duty for them. Formal complaints are handled at the brigade level by EOAs.

The basis of EO discrimination include: sex, color, religion, race, sexual orientation, national origin, and treatment of others (i.e., hazing, bullying), said Sgt. 1st Class Justin Loer, 75th Field Artillery Brigade EOA, who was one of the instructors for the course.

Training topics

Through lectures and interactive exercises, the curriculum covered the socialization process; values, attitude, beliefs and behaviors; conflict management; effective and active listening; giving effective feedback; perceptions and stereotypes; prejudice, power, discriminatio;, extremist organizations and activities; and racism and sexism, said Sgt. 1st Class Refugio Johnson, Installation EOA.

Day 1 began with the students getting to know each other with a badge posting, which identified how the student perceived him or herself, said Staff Sgt. Robert DuPlantier, Installation EOA. The visual badge tells a student’s name, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, social class, and location or home town.

During activities, the students were told to put their opinions, personal biases, and feelings in a bag and put it aside because it is baggage.

“When you’re in this (EO) position how you feel is irrelevant, you’re there to help individuals who come to you with an issue,” said Loer. “You have to be completely unbiased.”

An equal opportunity professional is not on any one side, but is there to get facts, said Master Sgt. John Lewis, Fort Sill Installation Equal Opportunity Program manager.

It is a selective process to attend the EOLC, said Loer. Soldiers complete a packet and apply through their chain of command, and are interviewed by their brigade EOA. Finalists are then interviewed by Loer, who makes selections.

Student Drill Sergeant (Staff Sgt.) Eriana Dorsey, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 79th Field Artillery, said she chose to take the training so she would have a better understanding of how to help her Soldiers, and to improve the morale of the unit.

Staff Sgt. Justin Sloan, A Battery, 1st Battalion, 14th Field Artillery platoon sergeant, said he took the training to make his unit more inclusive and diverse.

On Day 6, the students interacted with one another in an activity called the Liferaft. As a class, they determined the order of 11 people who would get kicked off a liferaft that was slowly sinking, said Dorsey. They each assumed a role of a person on the raft, and were provided very little information about their role.

“The old person (age 70)  went first,” said Dorsey, who made the final four on the raft as a male hairdresser.

Sloan said he was the last person standing as a single, black mother with four children.

Another activity was the Drawbridge where the students heard a story of a baroness who is told to stay in a castle, but decided to leave anyway. She  encounters many people, such as a gate guard, and boatman, who all help her. She ends up being killed.

“We ask the students who do you think is at fault?,” said Loer. “It gets the students talking. Everyone has different opinions, and that’s where you see people come from. Some people say it is the baroness’ fault, but she is the victim and it’s not our job (as EO professionals) to be a judge of character.”

Sloan said the interactive student activities made the course. “They were really eye opening.”

The EOLC also includes a two-day block of instruction which prepared the students to teach a small group of people on equal opportunity issues at the unit level, Johnson said.

Another role of the EOR, and EOA is climate specialists, Loer said. Through talking to Soldiers, surveys, and their personal observations, they can advise their commander about the command climate.

The EOLC is held quarterly, and averages about 30 Soldiers, but with social distancing class sizes are being reduced, Lewis said. Also one of its activities which involved close face-to-face interaction was removed.

Dorsey and Sloan said they are ready to put their new skills to work.

“I want to have a bigger impact on the unit with (basic combat) trainees and Soldiers,” Dorsey said. “I feel I’m ready now that I’ve had the education.”

Sloan said he is eager to get back to teach what he has learned. He recommended the course for those who want to become good leaders.

“It teaches you to open up and understand everything around you, not just one lane,” he said.