Service members and Department of the Army Civilians took part in Army Profession Week March 15-18 as part of the Department of Defense-mandated extremism stand down. The week culminated with Fort Jackson Commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. “Beags” Beagle Jr., leading a virtual listening session to “open dialogue.”
Though it was the last event in the week-long stand down, it “is just the beginning,” Beagle said in opening the listening session. The things discussed during the week are “things we will need to continue to talk about and look for.”
The week was aimed at opening an ongoing dialogue on the topics of extremism, suicide and Sexual Harassment Abuse Prevention, which are chief among issues discussed by the various commands on post. The magnitude of the issues makes these an imperative in the Army. Some of the programs the Army has created to face these issues include This Is My Squad and Diversity, Equity Inclusion.
The panel was made up of Beagle, Post Command Sgt. Maj. Philson Tavernier, Col. Mark Huhtanen, 193rd commander, Lt. Col. Adam “Avi” Grein, 120th Adjutant General Battalion commander, Lt. Col. Jason Dudley, from 2nd Battalion, 39th Infantry Regiment; Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Butler, from 193rd Infantry Brigade; Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas Blair from 3rd Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment; and Command Sgt. Maj. John A. Blyler II, from 2nd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment.
Extremists are drawn by a sense of belonging, understanding, empathy and a common viewpoint. Those thinking of suicide are hopeless and depressed. Some of the causes of sexual harassment and sexual abuse in the ranks is a lack of accounting and self policing resulting in behaviors that are inconsistent with Army Values.
The panel spoke about how taking care of the team at the lowest level, by getting to know the Soldiers in your team can help resolve these issues.
“This Is My Squad, is a metaphor, a figure of speech, and a term of endearment,” Tavernier said during the session. “It’s a mindset of how you take care of people. By establishing that trust and confidence within your squad so they will have the confidence to ask you prior to purchasing a house, prior to getting married, prior to purchasing an expensive vehicle.
“If you can establish that trust within your squad you can assist in eliminating all those problems,” Tavernier added.
The “three corrosives” the Army is battling can be eliminated by building cohesive teams, Tavernier added, “that feel confident and comfortable talking to you.”
Blair said leaders need to be “intellectually humble with seniors, peers and subordinates, and be passionately curious about them. You have to know them before you can take care of them. That starts the climate that builds into the culture.”
“People really do come first. It’s not a buy in and it’s not a gimmick – it’s who we are,” he added.
Grein said “If you can take care of each other in a strong healthy fashion you can make it ok to ask for help. To have that climate and culture where our Soldiers know they can come to you at any given time and say, ‘Sir or Ma’am, I am not feeling comfortable, I’m not myself, or this bothers me.’”
When you have that open dialogue you can resolve a lot of issues at the lowest level, he added.
The panel also discussed what to do if you find extremism in the ranks.
Soldiers from the lowest level should be able to report extremism once they know what extremism is, Huhtanen said.
“At the lowest level is to involve the chain of command,” he said. “We always discover that lower echelons are afraid to pass things up, but in honesty that is what we get paid for. As we go up we have more tools in our toolkits.”
The Army Value of personal courage can help.
“Sometimes people shy away from things that are hard,” Beagle said. “I’m not talking about the conversations, when I see something that is wrong, ‘Oops, not business, I’m not going to tell anybody.’ It’s personal courage, it is something we have to do. We cannot have fear when it comes to pointing out something wrong.”
“To have fear of pointing out something shouldn’t be in our DNA,” he added. You have to have the personal courage to say something. “You cannot let someone suffer in silence …”
Dudley added no one is bothering a leader when you bring them a problem.
(Editor’s Note: To watch the listening session in its entirety visit: https://www.facebook.com/FortJacksonCommandingGeneral/videos/806750473250855)