REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. – The U.S. Army’s military equal opportunity professionals help teams overcome obstacles during challenging times, including periods of national conflict or strong political disparity, to work together as a team.
Sgt. 1st Class Manuel J. Romo, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command’s military equal opportunity professional, said he uses his moral compass to guide him through his Army career, make the best choices possible, be successful in his field and encourage young Soldiers to do the same.
“I’ve been telling my subordinates for the last decade: never do anything in your career that jeopardizes your moral high ground,” Romo said. “That can be any kind of action either on the battlefield or in your personal life that puts your moral character in question.”
Romo enlisted in the Army in 2003 and served in his first equal opportunity position in 2017. Last year he received an offer for a broadening assignment as a military equal opportunity professional at USASMDC.
Military equal opportunity professionals play a vital role in the human relations climates of the units in which they serve, providing advice and assistance to commanders in order to prevent, reduce and eliminate discriminatory practices.
“The role of MEO is important because there will always be conflict between people,” Romo said. “People will never agree on everything, but that’s okay.”
Whether disagreements are interpersonal conflicts or larger arguments, Romo said it is human nature to not see eye to eye.
“What’s important to the military is to maintain professionalism while coming together to discuss any issues,” Romo said. “That way at the end of the day all parties can walk away with a sense of agreement.”
While some problems may be more difficult than others, Romo says diversity within the Army helps broaden Soldiers’ horizons, offering them a better understanding of how to work together.
“Sometimes you can have very deep issues, especially with what’s going on in the world right now and in America,” Romo said. “The beautiful thing about the Army though is that we truly are a melting pot of America.”
Romo said the military comprises people from all walks of life, socioeconomic class and cultural backgrounds, which helps foster feelings of understanding amongst the ranks as people experience different cultures and lifestyles from their own.
While MEO professionals are usually geographically based with their units, USASMDC has personnel assigned to 23 worldwide locations across 11 time zones.
“My bubble right now is so huge and immense that I could be talking to people in Italy in the morning, Colorado by lunch time and Kwaj by dinner time,” Romo said. “I get a very large sphere of influence and that’s awesome because taking care of people is my driving force right now.”
As important as it is to Romo to make moral choices in his life and career, he said it is just as vital to him to share this sentiment with younger generations of Soldiers.
“From the lowest private to the sergeant major of the Army, we’ll all take the uniform off one day,” Romo said. “When we take the uniform off, we have to live with all our life decisions.”
Romo teaches his subordinates that they will have to answer to themselves for the decisions they make.
“If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror the next day without feeling a little shame,” Romo said, “Or you can’t look yourself in the eye and talk to yourself about it, you should never do it.”
Romo said that seeking the moral high ground is not just essential personally for Soldiers but also for the relationship of the military with the American people.
“Once we’ve lost that trust of the American people, we’ve lost at everything,” Romo said. “If we don’t maintain the moral high ground with the American people, we’ve lost recruitment efforts, budget efforts and everything possible through Capitol Hill.”
Romo said he took this relationship of trust with the American people to heart while he served as a recruiter.
“You have to go into people’s homes and ask parents to give you their sons and their daughters, and sadly not everybody makes it home,” Romo said. “We always need to prioritize the relationships we have with the American people. If they lose faith in us, they lose their faith in the system and we lose everything.”