JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, Va. – EO, or equal opportunity, has been part of the Army training curriculum for decades. In fact, one might conclude the Army continues to be a pioneer as the training Soldiers receive reminds them of cultural differences and how they should embrace those differences.
However, for the first time, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command is now implementing training referred to as “Inclusion Training” into the Equal Opportunity Leader Course. The 60-hour course, which took place at Fort Eustis June 18 – 25, is designed to prepare leaders as equal opportunity representatives at the company and battalion-level.
“Given the current civil unrest in our nation, equal opportunity leaders help organizations discuss difficult issues like race and discrimination,” said Lt. Col. Joe Hissim, TRADOC’s Equal Opportunity Program Manager. “EOLs ensure we are maintaining cohesive teams and help improve readiness.”
EOLs conduct equal opportunity training for their respective units and assist with ethnic/special observances, advise the commanders on EO and command climate related matters, and help them resolve issues of prejudice or discrimination at the lowest level. They provide feedback, and are often referred to as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the command team.
“I believe this training has always been important, however, today this class is even more important because of what is happening in this country,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Knighton, one of the EOLC instructors, assigned to 128th Aviation Brigade. “We are seeing firsthand how racism and discrimination effects each and every one of us, some a lot more than others. I believe that being in the military gives us an opportunity to talk to others who do not look like us, and better understand why things are happening the way they are.”
Several findings triggered the U.S. Army Command Diversity Office to develop Inclusive Leadership Training. First, the office recognized a need to provide equal opportunity advisors a tool to help commanders create more cohesive teams and inclusive environments. Second, they wanted the EOAs to be proactive and assist commanders with the command climate and unit cohesion. Finally, EOAs and leaders expressed a desire for a more proactive and preventative approach to diversity and inclusion. The CDO chose inclusion training because numerous studies, including one conducted by the Government Accountability Office, indicated high performing organizations are inclusive and draw strength from employees at all levels and backgrounds.
“In this class, we have open discussions about hard topics that are rarely talked about in such a diverse group,” Knighton added. “Students are encouraged to share their personal opinions so they can see and understand their own personal bias. Everyone has personal bias, perceptions and prejudices, but we have to ensure we are not using the power and positions we are given to discriminate against others based on those.”
The main tenets of EO ensures fair treatment for military personnel, family members, and civilians without regard to race, color, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or national origin, and provides an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior.
An easy way to differentiate diversity from inclusion is: Diversity is who we are; Inclusion is how we can benefit from everyone’s talents and knowledge.
“I hope that the students in this class walk away from here and really embrace the idea of being the ‘change agent’ in their unit,” Knighton said. “Teaching this class inspires me to be a better leader and person. Each time I teach this class I grasp a better understanding of other races, ethnic groups, religions, and discrimination as a whole. I personally try to be better each day. I want the world my son grows up in to be a better place so I try to live by the quote from Mahatma Gandhi, ‘you must be the change you want to see in the world.’”
Hissim pointed out that along with Headquarters Department of the Army Diversity Equity and Inclusion, and the Army Research Institute, TRADOC also developed three levels of inclusion classes to go along with the Inclusive Leadership Training. The three classes are an introduction to inclusion, supervisor training, and senior leader training on inclusion. Many of these classes are in the process of being incorporated into EO Professional Military Education in support of the Army People Strategy.
More information can be found at: https://www.tradoc.army.mil/Organizations/TRADOC-Staff/Command-Diversity-Office-CDO-/