Three Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, along with 100 junior enlisted and officers from Active Duty, U.S. Army Reserves and Army National Guard were selected to attend the People First Solarium, a at U.S. Military Academy West Point from March 15-19, 2021.
“As a Solarium participant, you’ll be asked to share your unique perspective through open discussion that will include senior leaders,” stated Gen. Joseph Martin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army and Sgt. Maj. of the Army, Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston, in an open letter to the participants. “Your insights will assist the Army in adapting our policies, processes and programs to build diverse, adaptive and cohesive teams that sustain readiness.”
The U.S. Army held the People First Solarium in order to begin to develop new ideas and solutions in regards to sexual harassment/assault, suicide, racism and extremism within its formations. A major reason for selecting junior enlisted and junior officers was to better understand things from the perspective of those newer to the Army as well as those who currently serve at various echelons.
In recent years, the U.S. Army was stunned by the tragic loss of Vanessa Guillen; a rising suicide rate; service members who participated in the storming of the Capitol Building in Washington D.C, and service members affiliated with racist and extremist organizations. In an effort to better combat these major factors, Army senior leaders sought help from the junior enlisted and junior officers.
After arriving, Soldiers received a briefing from Army senior leaders, introduced themselves and were broken into smaller groups to delve further into the current problems plaguing the Army.
The three main issues that were discussed during this event were suicide, racism/extremism and sexual assault/harassment. Three smaller groups were assigned to each topic and each group discussed their topic during the course of one week.
Spc. Anthony Collins, a human resources specialist assigned to the 94th AAMDC and Pfc. Elijah Clarke, a multi-channel transmissions systems operator maintainer also assigned to the 94th AAMDC were two of the 100 Soldiers at the People First Solarium 2021.
“The Army is recognizing that we have problems that they’re working to fix, but for some reason it’s not reaching the level they want to reach; which is zero,” stated Clarke. “They want it to be zero SHARP zero suicide and zero extremist and racists in the Army.”
Clarke was a part of the group discussing racism and extremism and Collins was in the group that discussed suicide.
“Our second day, we started to touch on the actual problems and we were giving examples of what we saw in the Army in regards to racism and extremism,” Clarke said. “I haven’t really seen a lot so I didn’t have a lot to offer at that point, but hearing all my battle buddies speak and give their opinion on the matter was really eye opening.”
As the week continued, all participants shared their experiences and possible solutions with their respective groups in order to begin ridding the Army of these three corrosives.
“Our fourth day was really just honing in on solutions and what we can do to try to solve the problems, getting the ideas,” stated Clarke. “Coming up with here is what we think might help alleviate the problem, or here is what the problem is and here is some ideas we have.”
As the People First Solarium ended, leadership and Soldiers involved, engaged in a final group discussion to review and share their findings during the past week.