Army Medical Logistics Command uses ‘VOICE’ to boost diversity, equity, inclusion

By C.J. LovelaceOctober 26, 2021

U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command developed its "VOICE" program to build on the Army's Project Inclusion initiative, which aims to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion across the force and build cohesive teams. VOICE stands for Values, Opportunity, Inclusive, Culture and Equity. (Photo Credit: Mary Ann Beane) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT DETRICK, Md. -- Just above her black facemask, Sgt. Maj. Monnet Bushner’s eyes light up as she talks about how U.S. Army Medical Logistics Command leaders are transforming workplace culture.

After adopting the Army’s “All Things People” strategy, AMLC created an initiative called “VOICE” to promote the benefits of a diverse workforce that values an equitable and inclusive environment for all employees.

“At AMLC, we’re a team,” said Bushner, acting senior enlisted advisor for the Army’s premier medical logistics organization. “And to be a good team, we have to understand every individual, what drives them, what motivates them, what makes them who they are.”

VOICE stands for Values, Opportunity, Inclusion, Culture and Equity. The effort nests with a similar program at AMLC’s higher headquarters, U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command, called SOUL of CECOM, standing for Selflessness, Ownership, Unity and Larger purpose.

AMLC’s effort aims to build upon the Army’s Project Inclusion initiative to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI, across the force and build cohesive teams.

As directed by the Secretary and the Chief of Staff of the Army, Project Inclusion is a holistic effort that strives to make the voices of Soldiers, civilians and Family members heard, as well as help identify practices that inadvertently discriminate.

AMLC’s VOICE committee gathered workforce feedback through listening sessions and command climate surveys. The goal is to make employees feel comfortable in talking about their personal experiences -- both on and off duty -- and how that affects them, Bushner said.

During the early listening sessions, command staff would attend and participants would not speak up as much. Bushner said they quickly learned that having leadership in the room did not lead to genuine personal conversations about employees’ experiences.

“It wasn’t a natural conversation,” she said. “Now, we have a facilitator in the room who can lead the discussion with a recorder there who doesn’t identify the speakers.”

The sessions seek to help leadership get a better picture of the overall DEI climate within the command.

Are people being treated fairly? Are there processes in place to address complaints or workplace issues? Is there adequate training? What are our strengths and weaknesses?

“By working together and being a team, we can come up with a plan and be able to help each other instead of being one person on an island,” Bushner said. “If you can be a team, you can do it together and make the mission work.”

These sessions led to difficult, yet enlightening conversations about bias and perceptions of fairness.

To help increase transparency, the committee decided to start tracking, compiling and sharing job opportunities throughout the command, which committee member Candace Harriday said was a hit from the start.

“This demonstrates that we are inclusive to all job seekers,” she said. “Some participants shared that they felt some positions were purely designated for certain employees, or they were unaware that a job was even out there.

“Right away, the positive feedback was overwhelming,” Harriday added. “Almost every day, someone says thank you.”

Additionally, the committee developed a “Did You Know” series of emails that feature different graphics that “shine a light on sections of society that don’t always get much attention,” Harriday said. They recognize and raise awareness about different religious, ethnic or cultural holidays and events, as well as different causes, like food insecurity, disabilities awareness and unity.

Harriday said she feels there has been real buy-in from the AMLC workforce to support the effort, which helps others “feel like they are part of the team.”

“We want to continue to build on this and listen to our people,” she said. “It’s not just a DOD requirement. We’re always open to ideas and we look to grow this effort to further increase diversity, equity and inclusion across AMLC.”