FORT KNOX, Ky. – One unit of Fort Knox Soldiers has achieved a feat its own leaders say they’ve never witnessed in all their years of service.
The Forward Support Company of 19th Engineer Battalion has not had any alcohol-related incidents or positive drug tests since May 2020, according to company Commander Capt. Victoria Amato.
“I’m really proud because it’s not just a personal accomplishment of every Soldier in the company, it’s a collective accomplishment as well,” said Amato. “We all contributed to it.”
She said even though it may not appear to be a notable triumph, Amato and other leaders in the company recognize just how extraordinary it is.
“It seems simple enough to make sure Soldiers are doing the right thing,” said Amato. “[However,] a lot of times Soldiers are young, they’re out on their own for the first time, and that doesn’t always happen.”
Amato said she was surprised and proud when she realized what the company had achieved.
“Not a lot of companies are able to make it that far,” said Amato, pointing out what a testament it is to her Soldiers’ capabilities. “Another company made it pretty close, but with a week left to their one-year mark, they had someone mess up.”
Like Amato, other leaders within the company attributed the achievement to two main factors: building personal relationships; and developing trust from the top down. Maintenance platoon sergeant Sgt. 1st Class Keenan Millay said, as a team leader he felt one simple act made all the difference.
“Genuinely caring for Soldiers, that sums it up,” said Millay; “[having] leaders that genuinely care for them wholeheartedly. Everything else is natural.”
According to Millay, when leaders truly involve themselves in their Soldiers' lives and show they’re committed to helping them with their personal growth, an environment of trust begins to foster. In turn, that environment develops into a level of respect where they feel they want to succeed, not because there are repercussions if they don’t, but rather for their own self pride and desire to not disappoint fellow Soldiers and leaders.
Having served in the Army for many years, Millay pointed to one other fact that highlights the level of the achievement: “I’ve never been in another unit that achieved this in my 15 years. It’s outstanding.”
This was echoed even further by the company first sergeant, Sgt. 1st Class William Perry, who said he also has never seen it achieved in his 21 years of service. He explained this accomplishment started with taking action early, and then developing relationships with his Soldiers so they feel they can always reach out, if needed.
“There’s preventative steps. We tell people, ‘If you have a problem, call us,’” said Perry. “Just call. That’s all I ask them to do; just call and communicate. I’d rather see [them] succeed than fail. I think it’s caring about each other.”
While the company leaders regularly perform regulated safety briefings, Amato said Millay and Perry have taken Soldier safety a step further by developing a form of proactive leadership that promotes open communication.
“I think a lot of it is being engaged with people,” said Perry. “I just stop and talk to [the Soldiers], and see what’s going on with them. I think that’s the biggest thing: just talking to people.”
Fort Knox Safety director Joe Colson has also taken notice of the unit’s success. He said achieving a feat like this is due to the efforts of the leaders and Soldiers alike.
“It’s all about the culture,” said Colson. “That’s the culture, that’s the presence that the commander has established for that organization. So whatever she has done is awesome.
“This organization has done a great job.”
Amato said with a full year of progress under the company’s belt, she’s looking at the next year with encouragement as leaders continue showing the Soldiers they can rely on them to be there, even when they’re having a hard time.
“If you take care of your Soldiers and show that you care about them, the rest takes care of itself,” said Amato. “Everything falls in line when they realize they have people looking out for them.”