Fort Campbell is the 28th stop on the U.S. Army Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Agency’s “Your Voice Matters” listening tour, part of an ongoing effort to have frank conversations about issues including command leadership trust, gender, ethnicity, and racial tension.
Military and civilian personnel are invited Feb. 23-24 to share their experiences that have the potential to impact diversity, equity and inclusion at the installation, as well as at the Army level.
“Diversity includes everyone’s attributes, experiences, characteristics and backgrounds and what they can bring to the table for our Total Force,” said Col. Caprissa Brown-Slade, chief, Army Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Agency. “That’s important, because we need these folks to make sure that we are ready to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
The “Your Voice Matters” tour began July 8, 2020, and is part of the Army’s Project Inclusion that was initiated in response to civil unrest following George Floyd’s death and has evolved to encompass a variety of other issues.
The Project Inclusion initiative is a holistic effort to listen to Soldiers, Department of the Army Civilians and Family members to identify practices that inadvertently discriminate.
Participants of the Fort Campbell listening sessions will be able to provide anonymous feedback to Army officials, who will relay the information to installation leaders so they can identify key policy areas to focus on.
“For us, this is an opportunity for Fort Campbell and our Army to actually hear the voices of our people,” Brown-Slade said. “And when I say our people, we’re focusing on our Department of the Army Civilians and our military members. We understand the impact that our people have on our force, and our Army can go many, many places if we have those talented people and Soldiers.”
The listening tour is ultimately all about readiness and putting people first, which is the Army’s No. 1 priority, she said.
“We have to be able to have those candid conversations so that we can understand as an Army where we need to move forward, because it’s all about building those cohesive teams in an inclusive environment to fight and win our nation’s wars,” Brown-Slade said.
Listening sessions open to all Soldiers and Department of the Army civilians are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Feb. 23 and 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., and 1 p.m. Feb. 24 at Kinnard Mission Training Complex, 6896 Air Assault St. A 3 p.m. session for senior enlisted, field grade officers and above, and supervisors is scheduled for Feb. 23 and 24, also at Kinnard.
Those who wish to participate virtually can receive a Microsoft Teams link to the sessions from their supervisor or by emailing the Equity and Inclusion Mailbox at firstname.lastname@example.org. Participants can also message Teams facilitators directly with their concerns, discuss them privately after the session or send feedback forms to the Equity and Inclusion Mailbox.
“The more people we have, the better our response,” said LaCresha Snow, EI Programs Manager, U.S. Army Equity and Inclusion Agency. “People First is a big Army initiative, and it’s really about hearing what the people have to say. By having these candid dialogues and by feeling safe enough to talk about these sensitive issues, we can get to the heart of these challenges so people can be put first, and we can address the problems that people are facing.”
To encourage those uncomfortable sharing their concerns in front of the group, participants are asked not to identify themselves by name or unit, and the cameras for virtual attendees are turned off.
“I do think people being in the actual room together is very helpful because they’re learning a whole different perspective,” Snow said. “We’ve had people on the mic that shed tears, we’ve had people that are angry and full of passion. Folks need to hear this and they need to see it, because that reality ... comes out in that listening session.”
Previous listening sessions have already led to changes across the Army, and the Fort Campbell community now has the opportunity to drive further policy adjustments.
“Based off the feedback that we are getting from the field, we’ve had the chance to adjust the grooming standards for our military members and the opportunity to remove DA photos from those members going before promotion boards,” Brown-Slade said. “We’ve also had the opportunity to build a leader engagement policy handbook to assist civilians, and the Army is continuing to look at other things like body fat standards or deferred deployment for postpartum pregnancies.”
Problems that have been identified and addressed through the “Your Voice Matters” listening sessions reflect the Army’s comprehensive approach to diversity, which Brown-Slade said is about more than representation.
Senior leaders also benefit from the sessions, which allow them to reconnect with Soldiers at the unit level and better understand their experiences while evaluating their own practices.
“The feedback they receive really helps them to understand some of the stigmas that we’re still dealing with in the Army, and it also identifies the barriers and some of the biases,” Snow said, adding that some changes are simple enough to be made on the spot. “The sessions really do make a big difference because we put in plans of action against some of the major things that we hear about.”
Being able to take on those issues is an important step in building cohesive teams, which in turn increases the Army’s readiness for the future fight.
“This is near and dear to all of our hearts,” Brown-Slade said. “This is an opportunity for us to shape our future, and it’s not about lip service at all with us because we are all in. We’re firm believers in diversity, equity and inclusion across our Army.”