WASHINGTON -- To help foster a culture built on trust, the Army is conducting additional listening sessions at most Army installations as part of Project Inclusion, a senior leader-directed initiative that began in the summer.
Project Inclusion, which is part of the Army’s five-year strategic diversity plan, is a holistic effort to listen to Army personnel and enact programs to promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
“The thing that we're doing going forward is building a system to assess all these programs that we're putting in place,” said Col. Timothy Holman, the Army’s chief diversity officer. “We're looking at how we leverage the value of diversity.”
In support of the initiative, the Army has developed plans to implement diversity and inclusion into its military education programs. Holman said the service will create a senior mentorship program at various universities by connecting a senior faculty member to Army ROTC programs.
The Army also aims to recruit students from historically black or minority academic institutions to become involved in Army research as Army civilian employees. Official photos and gender and race details have even been eliminated from promotion boards, while senior leaders have ordered a reexamination of the Army’s justice system to assure equal and fair treatment of minorities.
Your Voice Matters
Following the death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen at Fort Hood, Texas, and Minnesota resident George Floyd, race relations drew increased attention in the national spotlight.
In June, the Army began the “Your Voice Matters” listening session tour to assess those concerns as well as emphasize a greater focus on the Army’s people. The tour goes along with the new Army People Strategy’s diversity, equity and inclusion annex, which outlines the service’s plans to maximize and leverage the talents of its Soldiers and civilians by increasing diversity and inclusion to build cohesive teams.
Using data from each tour session held at eight installations so far, the Army has identified 20 issues that will be updated to senior leaders on Dec. 17, with other periodic updates to be conducted in the future.
“We're hearing some things that are concerning,” Holman said. “But a good thing that we've heard at nearly every installation is that they’re glad the Army's having a venue to have these very difficult discussions.”
In order to compile an accurate list of concerns, the tour will continue on Jan. 12-14 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and run through the end of 2021. The next two sessions will be held on Jan. 26-28 at Fort Riley, Kansas, and Feb. 2-4 at Fort Eustis, Virginia. Proper physical distancing measures will be implemented and some attendants will participate by video teleconference.
“What we try to do is listen,” Holman said. “And then when we hear those concerns, we capture them based on the Army People Strategy’s four lines of effort: acquire, develop, employ and retain, and two of the four critical enablers: quality of life and Army culture.”
The Army Diversity Office plans to gather the data from the visits and then perform a policy evaluation where it will weigh the effectiveness of current policies with each post’s command team and revisit each installation.
Holman said they search for service-level issues that they can present to Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy. Holman noted that the Army’s senior leaders have held their own tour of Army installations in a concurrent effort to address Soldier issues.
“We started these listening sessions, because we wanted to understand what was the impact on readiness,” said Anselm Beach, deputy assistant secretary of the Army for equity and inclusion. “We actually found that both Soldiers and civilians actually value these sessions, especially because they see it as a psychologically-safe place for them to voice issues that they would not normally have a venue to voice.”
Beach added that Soldiers and civilians have not only identified problems but presented constructive ideas that could potentially improve Army processes.
During the sessions, teams of eight to 10 people including equal opportunity advisors, equal employment opportunity professionals, and a chaplain or military psychologist meet with Soldiers. The topics range from diversity, equity and inclusion, quality of life and also concerns in training, promotion or readiness.
“We want to make sure that we are not stuck in old constructs as we head into a 21st century workforce,” Beach said. “If you were to look at some of the things that the [Army] chief of staff called the ‘corrosives within the force,’ such as suicide, sexual assaults and sexual harassment … racism and extremism -- those corrosives are actually derived detractors from what we want to get to with diversity, equity and inclusion.”
For more information on upcoming listening sessions, click here or check with your local EEO office.