Photos, story by Sgt. Melissa Lessard, III Corps Public Affairs
Capt. Rosa Meeks, the commandant for the III Corps and Fort Hood People First Center, is a leader who a person can carry on a conversation with and be completely comfortable. That is part of the reason she was chosen for the job: her ability to relate to and care for Soldiers. She has been in the Army for 11 years, and ahead of the opening of the Army’s flagship People First Center on Fort Hood, she offers her views on disconnecting from technology and how the People First Center can help people do that.
What is the People First Center?
The People First Center is currently the commanding general’s number one priority. Our people first operations will be where units can come to get training as a unit – to help people build cohesive teams and re-establish trust in an environment that is away from the unit.
Why did Fort Hood or the Army decide to establish the People First Center?
The commander wanted to establish this center to get back to ‘people first.’ For a lot of years we were mission first and a lot of the people part of the military we kind of forgot about that. By forgetting about the people that make up the mission, we lost ourselves. The way to get back to ourselves is by establishing the People First Center. Leaders learning their Soldiers, knowing what a Soldiers issues are, and their family dynamics, knowing intimate details about your Soldiers so when something is not right, leaders recognize that and they can act before anything permanent happens.
Is the center a one-stop shop?
I think it is important to not think of it as a one-stop shop. If you want to talk about equal opportunity, sexual harassment and assault response program, the six stakeholders we mentioned earlier it is still not a one stop shop. The units still need to conduct further training. Let’s take MRT for example. We will teach two skills here at the PFC (People First Center). But there are 14 skills that the unit needs to get annually. So that means that it is on the unit to get the other 12 skills.
What would you like to tell Soldiers or leaders about the center?
I would like to tell Soldiers and leaders about the People First Center is that this is a groundbreaking initiative. I see it, I hope and pray that 10 years from now we will still be talking about the People First Center. There will be many more at different installations. I see it as a way for units to disconnect from cell phones and computers just for a couple of days and be about people. To learn together. Unifying, building trust. eating lunch together. Leaders are often times bombarded by emails and telephone calls and so they are often times taken away from those trainings that we think the Soldiers need to get. But leaders also need those trainings and we need to give them the same. They need to see how their Soldiers are learning those skills.
What would you say to someone who has a bias about people first walking through the door?
This training is not just for Soldiers. And that is another misconception we have in the military. We think that everything is designed for the private through the specialist. Leaders need to work through issues. Leaders need someone to talk to. Leaders need mentoring. Leaders need to sit down and take a block of instruction. So I think this is an opportunity for leaders to disconnect from the cell phone or from the computer for a couple of days and get the training that the Soldiers get. Get to know the Soldiers. That little banter, that talking that we do while doing the training, you don’t get that on the line. The commander rarely gets to spend more than an hour with his troops in a day. If he gets an hour. So now you are spending three days with your Soldiers to get to know them.
What is your personal reward in this?
For me to have seen that personally and have to be chosen for this position it means that they have faith that I can execute the mission. Help build cohesive teams and trust. Yes I am a bit older and I have lived a life outside the military and I poses a lot of empathy. I can oftentimes put myself in someone else’s shoes. And see it from their foxhole. I consider myself blessed and privileged to be a part of this.
Meeks believes in the commanding general’s initiative to establish the People First Center. She hopes to see future centers across installations with the people’s first initiative still going strong.
For more information on the center please see https://www.army.mil/article/250634 . For more information about the Army’s People First initiative please visit https://www.army.mil/standto/archive/2021/03/26/ .