ARLINGTON, Va. — Leadership is one of the most important qualities in the United States Army, but it’s also not easy to nurture — you have to work at it. Which is why the Fort Hood Soldier Recovery Unit in Texas is taking a proactive step to improve leadership by participating in Operation Phantom Action.
OPA equips personnel with the tools they need to lead more effectively, empowering them to take decisive action and hold Soldiers accountable.
“Operation Phantom Action is the perfect opportunity for the SRU to take a hard look at ourselves and see if we’re doing everything possible as leaders to take care of our Soldiers, create a team atmosphere, and build trust across the entire formation," said Lt. Col. Joseph Black, the commander of the SRU.
The five-phase operation started in September and will run for about a year.
After a week or so of preparation involving identifying trainers, standards and resources, the SRU jumped straight into Phantom Action Week in early October, which involved facilitating classes and discussion. The purpose of Phantom Action Week was to establish trust between leaders and Soldiers and create cohesive teams. Operation Phantom Action has three main themes: know your soldiers, leaders taking actions, and holding people accountable.
“Operation Phantom Action is not just a week-long deal — we are in this for the long haul," Black said.
Black pointed to one example of what took place over the week: an interactive suicide awareness and prevention dialogue between himself and the SRU.
"If I've become convinced of anything in learning about this other enemy that we must fight, it's that suicide prevention is a contact sport," he said. "We need to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and normalize the conversation — but we also need to stay engaged. In a movement to contact, rule No. 1 is to maintain contact once it's made. No different here, we have to maintain contact — not virtually, but actually. We each need to pick a few people and call, rather than wait for the phone to ring."
But the week wasn’t just about suicide prevention — Operation Phantom Action also included a counseling program focused on leadership fundamentals.
For example, another session addressed sexual harassment/assault prevention and racism/extremism.
Operation Phantom Action used the Army’s “golden triangle” concept to drive the discussion. The golden triangle refers to the three points of support to a Soldier: their squad, family, and friends.
After Phantom Action Week comes the Leader Book Compilation, where participants complete a book on subordinate leaders and Soldiers, and then the leader certification program which runs into mid-November. During these phases, the SRU will help leaders absorb critical information on their fellow Soldiers so they can take proactive action and hold others accountable.
All of this culminates in Foundation Days, which take place monthly into late 2021. Participants will read articles and official Army regulations, and then engage in awareness training on a range of relevant topics, with individual monthly counseling supplementing it.
The purpose of these monthly events is to follow up and ensure the SRU is aggressively tackling the three primary corrosive threats to the Army: sexual assault and harassment, suicides, and racism/extremism, Black said.
"The Foundation Days strengthen trust within the organization, increasing unit cohesion, and help develop combat power for the III Corps," he said, referring to the corps stationed at Fort Hood.
The idea is to lay the groundwork for growing leaders who will be able to spot something wrong and take decisive action to mitigate it — as well as be held accountable themselves.
“It’s time for the SRU to have some hard conversations," said SRU Command Sgt. Maj. Mauvet Rawls. "These hard/uncomfortable conversations are exactly what will make us a better team.”
The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.