“Our community continues to strive towards getting better. We are an inclusive community that is capable of working together to overcome obstacles and differences.”
-Dr. Irving Taylor, Deputy to the Garrison Commander USAG Yongsan-Casey
CAMP CASEY, Republic of Korea [June 10, 2021] -Camp Casey’s Soldiers Field looked a lot like a barbeque or a block party last month because there was music, food, big tents and a lot of people having fun. However, it wasn’t festive like Oktoberfest or big like a circus, instead, eight medium-sized canopies filled the green space and the atmosphere buzzed of food, fun and activity. More than 100 Soldiers from the 210th Field Artillery Brigade (210 FAB) gathered in their summer-civilian attire for the brigade’s Diversity Council event, “Fanning the Flames of Change.”
Soldiers moved from station-to-station to discuss their thoughts about noteworthy and provocative issues that can negatively impact readiness, trust and organizational goals. The stations facilitated issues concerning: communication, suicide, behavior health stigmas, anxiety and depression, racism and extremism, and issues and attitudes concerning the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Questioning and A+ [and other identities] community.
“I wanted to focus on current events and how Asian-hate crimes might affect our formations,” said 2nd Lt. Shade Bullock, a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Officer at the 210 FAB. “Having racism and discrimination doesn’t just affect our unit as a whole, it affects each of these individual Soldiers and leaders at home.”
Camp Casey is located a mere 20 miles south of North Korea and the Demilitarized Zone. The Soldiers are in a community where most of the workforce and their neighbors are South Korean.
An issue such as racism can affect personal goals and family life. Talking about the issue is a way to develop positive attitudes and behaviors, she said. “I think it’s important for everyone to have a positive, open and accepting work environment. A work environment where one can excel.”
Not only did the event discuss ways to eliminate corrosive behaviors, such as racism, the leaders hoped to build character and empathy through exploratory conversations and feedback.
“I wanted to discuss the negative stigma associated with behavioral health and the suicide prevention stigma,” said Staff Sgt. Elijah Johnson, a fire control Non-Commissioned Officer. “I felt it was important to discuss stigmas associated with seeking help. I wanted to get other opinions, educate and inform the Soldiers within our ranks about the resources that Camp Casey has to offer.”
There are behavior health, clinical and non-clinical support services as well as financial, educational and morale, welfare and recreation activities and critical support services across three separate and distinct communities.
“We are a creative, innovative and caring community,” said Russell Jordan, the Army Substance Abuse program manager. “In the more relaxed environment, Soldiers are willing to articulate their thoughts and feelings about suicide.”
Alcohol abuse and impaired thinking also came up during the discussion, he said. The Soldiers want to be part of the solution and not seen as the problem.
“We’re a team and as a leader you have to know how your Soldiers are doing [know what’s on their minds],” said Spec. Simon Nguyen, a fire direction control specialist from Alpha Battery, 6th 37th Field Artillery. “One of my battle buddies felt ashamed because of his religion [as part of his faith he wears a beard].”
The assumption was that the Soldier was out of regulation or a bad Soldier. The frequent requests to explain or to show a profile [medical reason] affected his self-confidence and made him less likely to speak up, said Nguyen.
As part of the diversity council Nguyen felt empowered to share the story to help others see the situation from a different perspective.
“Each of us is an equal member of the team. Sometimes Soldiers’ voices are muted by the day-to-day [activities]. We want to make sure that isn’t happening in our ranks,” said Maj. Justin Willis, the 210 FAB executive officer. “The feedback we’ve received is that we need to have more of these discussions. It’s a way to let everyone’s voice be heard.”
These events are open to everyone in the community. So the next time you see an advertisement, or hear the diversity council is hosting an event, stop by and take a seat. All members of the community may join the conversation!