FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Feb. 4, 2021) -- Fort Sill Soldiers and civilians who have participated in Value of Life (VoL) forums spoke about their experiences to Army leaders Jan. 28 at the Patriot Club.
About two dozen Soldiers, many of them young enlisted or company grade officers; Department of the Army civilians; and contractors who provide social services spoke with Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, and Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael A. Grinston, as well as senior leaders from the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill.
Fort Sill Installation Senior Chaplain (Col.) Robert Glazener welcomed the participants.
“Value of Life is a mind-setting cultural change to focus training onto values, life skills, and that everyone’s life matters,” Glazener said. “We’re trying to integrate helping agencies to normalize conversations. Through forums we get information that is given to leaders so they can provide resources and training to strengthen their formations.”
(Note: participants’ comments were not for attribution.)
A religious affairs specialist said VoL forums have helped Soldiers become more proactive as they battle the three corrosives: suicide, sexual assault, and racism and extremism. Soldiers have more access to resources that they might not have had or known about before.
McConville asked the group, What is your assessment of the command culture on the three corrosives?
Soldiers must believe they have the trust that leadership will take care of them, for example, if they file a sexual assault report, one participant responded.
On another note, a participant who has the additional duty as a brigade Master Resilience Trainer (MRT), said he believes it should be a full-time position, whether filled by a Soldier or civilian. This would allow MRTs to perform training for the recommended duration times.
A Soldier commented that lieutenants graduating from Basic Officer Leaders Courses are technically competent in their respective branches, but once in the field about 78 percent of their time will be dealing with personnel issues.
Grinston responded that leaders don’t have to be MRTs themselves, however, they have to be able to recognize if their Soldier is having a problem, and get them the care that he or she needs.
McConville added that if a Soldier is at-risk for life, health, or safety, a leader should intervene, whether it’s a first sergeant or the Army chief of staff. “We don’t outsource taking care of our Soldiers.”
Afterward, participants shared what they took away from the meeting.
Staff Sgt. Kyle Stewart, 3rd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Equal Opportunity (EO) leader and operations sergeant, said he gained new perspectives of the VoL campaign by listening to his peers.
A couple things that need to be looked at are the certification process, and the screening of people put into SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention), EO, and Master Resilience Training programs, he said.
Lisa Johnson, Community Ready and Resilient integrator, said the meeting validated a lot of what she hoped VoL forums would be when the concept was first developed.
Soldiers who have attended forums or activities at the unit level have gained insight into who they are as individuals, and the importance of their role as not only a Soldier or leader, but as a teammate, Johnson said. “It is always a comfort knowing that the efforts put in by so many at Fort Sill are leading to something impactful, and creating positive change.”
Chaplain (Capt.) Jae Chang, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery battalion chaplain, said VoL forums are most effective when leaders take the time to take care of their Soldiers in their professional and personal needs.
“I believe that was the point the chief of staff of the Army was sharing with everyone,” Chang said. “Despite how busy you are, it shouldn’t be an excuse for leaders not taking care of their Soldiers.”
Glazener said he believed the meeting went well.
“Anytime you get a bunch of people in a room and allow dialogue, you never know what you’re going to get, but overall I think there was some good feedback given to the chief of staff.”