Eighth Army is combatting racism and bigotry within its ranks.
About 100 Soldiers, civilians and family members came together at the Morning Calm Center on Camp Humphreys for a two-day workshop June 24-25, where “unfettered, uncensored” and honest discussions took place to address any concerns that should be addressed by the command.
The goal was to come up with “quick wins” and “actionable outcomes.” The command wants ideas that can be implemented right away to ensure bigotry and racism is nowhere to be found in Eighth Army.
“We’re looking for things that we can do the moment we walk out the door; things that we can change immediately,” said Maj. Gen. Daniel Christian, Eighth Army deputy commanding general-sustainment. “Actionable outcomes…things that you will see, feel and touch at the end of the day that has the expected impact.”
Christian added the “quick wins” can possibly be implemented at the end of the week or Monday morning if plausible, emphasizing Eighth Army’s urgency to tackle an issue that has gripped the United States in recent weeks beginning with the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
Those attending the workshop were encouraged to don their civilian clothes in order to have an equal voice during group discussions to avoid any restrictions that may come when interacting with military members of different ranks.
After breaking up into groups, Eighth Army facilitators helped with discussions, problem solving and identifying policies or behavior within the Eighth Army community that could be considered discriminatory.
“The panel discussions were to provide quantifiable action steps that can be implemented now as well as long-term that will consistently give leaders on every level the tools needed to foster a command climate free from discrimination,” said Adam Morrison, U.S. Army Garrison Casey Equal Employment Opportunity manager.
Dozens of action items and recommendations were produced. Among those the groups came up with, Morrison noted several that could be implemented rapidly.
“These examples are not definitive, but were suggested that could be quick actions and not ideas: implement mandatory platoon, company, and/or battalion level discussion panels to tackle topics of racial discrimination and associate issues; removal of discriminatory dress code posters displayed around the (post exchange) areas; have equal opportunity posters displayed in all public areas just like the SHARP posters are displayed; and remove discriminatory language from the Eighth Army Blue Book,” Morrison said.
He also mentioned the establishment of an EO hotline that would provide anonymous reporting of EO or equal employment opportunity complaints; in-processing briefs to all Soldiers and civilians that communicate the United States Forces Korea’s zero tolerance policy for discrimination and racial bigotry; and re-institution of the Quarterly Narrative Statistical Report, which will hold commanders accountable in identifying any trends of discrimination within their respective organizations.
At the end of the second day of the workshop, attendees had the chance to present their ideas and recommendations to Christian who listened and vowed their ideas would be moved forward.
“This is not a check-the-box event just so it looks good,” Christian said. “You have to make time to have the conversation. Leaders need to listen and pay attention to what’s going on in their formations; our formations. If we don’t do it now then we’re not going to do it at all…There is zero room for racial discrimination.”
The solutions or recommended changes from the workshop are intended for Eighth Army units across South Korea, however, those changes can be fed up the chain to USFK, which has implemented a diversity campaign to address racism and bigotry among U.S. military units across the peninsula.
Citing the Eighth Army order to hold the workshop, Morrison said, “This is not another time for having a ‘frank discussion,’ but the time and need for ‘rapid change.’ USFK must build the confidence in the workforce and the community by enforcing and holding individuals accountable who violate the ‘written’ and ‘verbal’ directives of ending discrimination and racial bigotry, in an expeditious manner.”
Morrison added that if anyone within Eighth Army experiences any discrimination or bigotry, they should “first and foremost” notify the chain of command. For active duty Soldiers, include reporting incidents to the Equal Opportunity Office, and for Department of the Army civilians, report to their Equal Employment Opportunity Office.