JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. Sept. 29, 2020 —The U.S. Army recently announced it would take immediate action to improve inclusion across the force and build cohesive teams by addressing the issue of racism head-on, and the 597th Transportation Brigade is 'all in.'
“When we talk about diversifying the workplace, we have to give everyone a fair shot and an opportunity.” said Col. Michael Patrick, commander, 597th Transportation Brigade.
Patrick leads a weekly listening session open to everyone in the brigade to help gauge the pulse of the organization.
“Open dialogue is critical to helping our people understand and support each other,” said Patrick.
“Everyone’s opinions are valuable, from the Private all the way to the Chief of Staff and Sergeant Major of the Army. This is an Army-wide effort and we will continue this effort to promote equity and inclusion,” Patrick said.
The weekly discussions are open to everyone in the brigade and are scheduled for at least 90 minutes each week, but can run longer.
Even after the listening session is over, the conversation carries on in the workplace, according to longtime civilian employee Jon Carr, Administrative Officer and Equal Opportunity Advisor.
“The weekly listening sessions offer the Soldiers and civilians at the 597th Transportation Brigade a safe space to discuss current events and have a candid conversation about race in the workplace for the first time,” said Carr, who has been with the organization for 15 years.
The meetings also offer a chance for each member of the geographically dispersed organization to see one another.
Patrick said that holding the meetings virtually accomplishes multiple things. He likes seeing the screen light up with the faces from across the organization, with service members stationed as far as Puerto Rico in the Southern Command area of operations.
The listening sessions are not the only way the brigade addresses the issue of diversity.
In addition to personally leading and conducting listening sessions with his brigade, Patrick encourages and actively seeks ideas from other organizations, friends and even family on how to best address issues with diversity and inclusion.
The commander said he will continue the effort to build more cohesive teams and promote diversity and inclusion for as long as he is here.
“We are not stopping the discussion about diversity and inclusion.”
The 597th Transportation Brigade is a part of the Surface Deployment and Distribution Command, responsible for integrating and synchronizing surface deployment and distribution capabilities in the Continental U.S, deploying and sustaining the Armed Forces off the East and Gulf coasts in support of global operations and U.S. Southern Command.
Additionally, the command stands ready to provide surface rapid port opening capabilities via the Army’s only three Rapid Port Opening Elements in support of its global Joint Task Force Port Opening mission.