USAG HUMPHREYS, South Korea — A long time in the making, the 501st Military Intelligence Brigade held the grand opening of their Soldier Resiliency Center (SRC) after signing the Sexual Assault Awareness Prevention Month (SAAPM) proclamation on Apr. 2.
The SRC, now housed in building 1225, was an idea in the making when L Tyrone Randall, the brigade’s sexual assault response coordinator joined the organization while the brigade was still headquartered in Seoul.
Randall saw the location of the Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Program office as an issue based on its proximity to the command suite and felt that Soldiers who needed to use its services would be better served with greater anonymity. But with the pending move from Seoul to USAG Humphreys, designating a different location got put on the back burner.
“When Command Sgt. Maj. (Michael) Martino came on board and we did his SHARP in-brief,” said Randall, “I mentioned it to him and he was all for it, and he said he was going to make it happen.”
There were several buildings that were viewed as possible sites for the SRC while it was still just a concept. From those, it was determined that a building that was already in the brigade footprint would be the best location as it was large enough for this new concept.
“It provides Soldiers one place to come and seek out assistance, whatever assistance we can provide,” said Randall. “We primarily provide SHARP-related assistance, but we are connected to other service providers. A person may come in and they think they have a SHARP issue, but after talking to me, it may not be a SHARP issue, it may be an EO (Equal Opportunity) issue. In other cases, they may need to talk to the chaplain or the MFLC (Military Family Life Counselor). I can just walk them down the hall and we are all here.”
He also explained that with the retention offices, NIPR (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router) computer cafés and a reading lounge, located downstairs, it provides the anonymity he alluded to so Soldiers that may need to talk to SHARP, or the chaplain or the MFLC can feel freer to do so without looking like they are going directly to those offices.
The Soldier Resiliency Center now houses offices for the retention staff, the brigade’s unit ministry team (UMT), the MFLC, MEO staff, and SHARP program staff, who in addition to offices have two intake rooms to discuss SHARP related concerns. The SRC also features two internet cafés, a coffee bar, a reading room, and a meditation suite.
Sgt. 1st Class Quantarius Burns, brigade career counselor, served as the brigade’s project officer for pushing the SRC project through to completion. Burns said that during a discussion with Martino, that Martino pitched the idea of combining the retention personnel, UMT, MEO, and the SHARP staff under one roof to create the SRC.
Burns said that since opening they already have had a lot of traffic coming through the SRC. However, that traffic is not just Soldiers from the brigade, there are also Soldiers from Eighth Army and other units as well. Burns said the walk-ins have made comments like, “Wow, we wish we had this over in our area.”
Staff Sgt. Kendra Brandon, religious affairs specialist for the brigade, said she has also seen an uptick in the number of Soldiers coming in to talk to her and the chaplain. She said that before, when their office was next to the command suite, Soldiers didn’t always feel comfortable stopping by, but that now they are enjoying the benefit of increased foot traffic from the new location.
Brandon has also been encouraging other religious support specialists to ask their commands to create their own SRCs. She plans to take this concept forward to her next unit during her upcoming move.
Martino explained his reason for pursuing the SRC is ultimately to get to the left of issues. He said the SRC will provide the Soldiers with an outlet to relax, meditate, and seek help for mental health issues that they may be facing before they fester and become larger issues that affect their job performance and quality of life.
“That building truly embodies the command team’s focus on people,” said Martino, “and the desire to truly take care of them down to the lowest level.”
And the process started at the lowest level. Martino said he spoke with the junior enlisted counsel and asked what they needed in their SRC during the formation stage. With those ideas in hand, he tasked the elements that would be housed in the SRC with generating a design that would meet the Soldiers’ expressed needs and create an outcome that would make them happy.
Martino said there was a lot of time, money, and effort that went into getting the building where it needed to be. But he said what made it special was bringing in the SFRG (Soldier Family Readiness Group) team, and letting the Families truly make that place special.
“They put their heart and soul into it and you can tell. It changed the dynamic of it from being a static military building, with white walls, into something with character,” said Martino. “Something that truly represents the experience we want people to have when they walk in there.”
Martino said the concept has been shared with Eighth Army and that they have been receptive, and that he looks forward to seeing where it goes from here. He also said that the SRC has consolidated and created some efficiencies and that they open their doors to the Humphreys community.
“Obviously we can’t take on everybody, but we’re always there. And we can show the example that the 501st is setting the pace for taking care of people, then for their next assignment, people are going to want to come here,” said Martino.
The 501st Military Intelligence Brigade provides indications and early warning of actions by opposing forces who could threaten the tense, but stable, peace in the Republic of Korea. In the event of hostilities, the brigade’s mission shifts to providing combined, multi-discipline intelligence and force protection support to the United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command, the CFC Ground Component Command, and their subordinate units.