Sexual harassment and sexual assault, racism, and extremism – by now, we’ve heard that the Army is concentrating on these “harmful behaviors” because of their detrimental effect on unit cohesion and readiness. One of the many efforts to learn more about these behaviors in a unit context is the HQDA’s People First Task Force Cohesion Assessment Team, or CAT. Since March, three installations have participated in the CAT pilot and there are plans to expand it to other locations.

This independent review pilot consists of a team of approximately 20 subject matter experts. The CAT conducts a deep dive into one or two battalions at an installation, collecting historical and primary data to obtain a comprehensive snapshot for the battalion, brigade, and division leadership. Before the CAT’s arrival, Soldiers in the participating battalions take a survey about the climate, leadership, and harmful behaviors in the unit. At the same time, participating units send the CAT a wide-range of historical data, including troop school fill rates, information on UCMJ and administrative separation cases, first term Soldier sponsorship matches, long-and short-range training calendars, SHARP training data, grade band match information, and collateral duty fill rates. The data provides a comprehensive look into unit climate and leader focus. The CAT SMEs include experienced leaders, chaplains, JAG representatives, Senior NCOs, organizational behavior experts, SHARP leadership, research psychologists, and various specialists to help interpret, analyze, and synthesize the data.

Once the CAT arrives onsite, they interact with the unit for approximately five days. During that time, they have informal and formal interactions with Soldiers at their worksites and observe Soldier and leader interactions to assess group dynamics. In addition, the Civilian research psychologists and associates from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research interview leaders from battalion to platoon and conduct focus groups with junior enlisted Soldiers and junior NCOs, separated by gender. These interviews and focus groups provide additional insight into the survey results and allow Soldiers to discuss their experiences with harmful behaviors and the climate in the unit in a non-attributional setting. The CAT SMEs also conduct sensing sessions with Soldiers, separated into groups such as newcomers and squad leaders, to collect additional understanding of the unit’s cohesion and leadership.

At the end of the rapid assessment, the CAT members synthesize the data and produce an outbrief of their observations. CAT leadership facilitates a discussion with the unit command teams about the results and provides information about available resources to address deficiencies. Unit leadership is then free to develop their own plan of action based on the feedback. In addition to providing information that is near real-time and actionable at the unit level, the combined data from all the assessments can inform changes to the Army’s programs for addressing harmful behaviors.

Editor's note: Material has been reviewed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. There is no objection to its presentation and/or publication. The opinions or assertions contained herein are the private views of the authors, and are not to be construed as official, or as reflecting true views of the Department of the Army or the Department of Defense.