JOINT BASE LANGLEY - EUSTIS, Va. – The novel Coronavirus pandemic has shifted the way many professional work environments complete their day-to-day activities, and with an increase in telework communication, many have gone to great lengths to find creative ways to stay connected.

As a People First organization, it is no surprise that the TRADOC staff directorates are among the many who have found new, innovative ways to keep staff connected, productive and mentally alert while working from home. From regularly scheduled town hall meetings to virtual happy hours, the directorates have really gone above and beyond in their efforts to keep their teams involved and connected.

The G-1/4 (Personnel & Logistics) staff directorate at TRADOC has implemented a few new creative ways to stay connected. Along with quarterly town hall meetings and other regular day-to-day correspondence, the directorate has implemented a new bi-monthly event that they call Coffee Talks. The last Coffee Talk, according to Charlene Smith, the executive officer, featured deputy command historian, Dr. Joe Rainer, who presented the art of making chai Tea. This series is an initiative of their Workforce Action Committee, a team composed of staff members who make recommendations to David Brinkley, the G-1/4 Deputy Chief of Staff, based on their own experiences, observations and input from the rest of the staff.

Dr. Joe Rainer, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command deputy command historian, presents a chai tea making class during a G-2 Coffee Talk virtual meeting Dec. 16, 2020. (Courtesy screenshot photo)
Dr. Joe Rainer, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command deputy command historian, presents a chai tea making class during a G-2 Coffee Talk virtual meeting Dec. 16, 2020. (Courtesy screenshot photo) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Another example of workforce engagement from the G-1/4 are Listening Sessions, which occurred earlier in the year and gave staff the opportunity to discuss important issues that may be impacting the team, as well as individual staff members and the community as a whole. “We have covered a variety of topics to include impacts of COVID on our staff and their families, factors causing stress, adjustments to telework, the current racial environment, and perceptions of Army senior leaders and updates to Army policy. The process demonstrates leaders care and are as vulnerable as our employees,” Smith stated.

Along with these great initiatives, the G-1/4 has found ways to bring the holiday spirit to their staff, too, with their yearly holiday party. This year, the holiday party was held on Microsoft Teams, a business communication platform, and consisted of virtual contests such as a home office decorating contest and a gingerbread decorating contest. They also worked together to collect food donations for a local charity organization.

Dr. Sue Canedy, chief of staff of the G-2 (Intel) directorate, gave some insight into how they have been keeping staff connected. Because the directorate is so large and covers a wide geographic area, telecommunication was already a normal part of the job, which made the teleworking transition slightly easier. Aside from the regular emails, online sessions, and video teleconferences, the directorate has been participating in virtual happy hours, trivia contests, and even fitness challenges to keep the staff active while they work from home.

Canedy stated that she believes with this increased teleworking came a more deliberate way of conversing. “We now pay even closer attention to making sure we include everyone, and that has made our work more inclusive and, consequently, better.”

Military history presentations are another social event series the G-2 has started doing. This bi-weekly event consists of various history professionals who volunteered their time to speak about various topics, such as the Civil War, world wars, and the history of the military working dog.

The directorate has also gotten in the holiday spirit this year by hosting a virtual holiday party with a variety of holiday-themed contests, such as an ugly sweater contest, a workplace decorating contest, and a carol singing contest.

The G-3/5/7 (Operations Plans, and Training) directorate has been keeping the staff connected in similar ways, with quarterly town hall meetings and regularly scheduled video teleconferences. During their town hall meetings, the G-3/5/7 leadership recognizes deserving employees with honorary awards, cash awards, years of service recognition, and the Walking Tall award. They also recently coordinated a fitness challenge, which they called the 12 Days of Christmas PT, and are currently planning their annual chili cook-off, which has been historically a fan favorite within the staff section.

The directorate really delved into the holiday cheer, as they do every year with their notorious annual holiday party. This year’s holiday party was also moved to Microsoft Teams where it became a huge virtual experience that the entire directorate could share together from the comfort of their own homes.

The holiday party opened with remarks from the G-/3/5/7 Deputy Chief of Staff, Brig. Gen. John Kline, who read from a list compiled of things the staff was grateful for that were submitted. They then kicked off the festivities with an ugly Christmas sweater contest, a house decorating contest, a Ho Ho Ho contest, and a Name That Tune contest. The directorate also collected plenty of food donations for their local charity.

Brig. Gen. John Kline, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Chief of Operations, Plans and Training G-3/5/7 (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Baird, G-3/5/7 Command Sergeant Major, pose next to food donations from the G-3/5/7 staff at TRADOC Headquarters, Fort Eustis, VA, which are intended for local food banks in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area, Dec. 18, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Nina Borgeson)
Brig. Gen. John Kline, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Chief of Operations, Plans and Training G-3/5/7 (left) and Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Baird, G-3/5/7 Command Sergeant Major, pose next to food donations from the G-3/5/7 staff at TRADOC Headquarters, Fort Eustis, VA, which are intended for local food banks in the Hampton Roads, Virginia, area, Dec. 18, 2020. (U.S. Army photo by Nina Borgeson) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

These are just a few examples of the amazing things the enterprise has done to keep staff connected and involved during this time of adversity. It all comes back to the Army Values of Duty and Integrity, and the TRADOC staff directorates have done a great job with their efforts to keep the staff connected, involved, and mentally productive while they continue teleworking and maintaining a safe work environment for everyone.