People First Center tour
Capt. Rosa Meeks, commandant, People First Center, guides members of the Killeen Chapter of the NAACP through the halls of the center at Fort Hood, Texas, March 21. (Photo Credit: Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - The Killeen Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People toured the People First Center here, March 21, to find out how the installation is dealing with the safety of its service members.

“The People First Center is the physical manifestation of our commitment on this base to improve the safety, morale, welfare and discipline of our Soldiers,” explained Col. Chad R. Foster, commander of U.S. Army Garrison – Fort Hood. “It’s the most important thing we have, in terms of our assets. We could have all the tanks in the world, all the weapons in the world, but if the Soldiers don’t feel safe and don’t feel valued, if they’re not empowered to stand up for themselves, then none of that matters.”

Capt. Rosa Meeks and 1st Sgt. Amanda Hoover, the People First Center’s command team, explained how the training works, what the Soldiers learn and how they are better prepared to tackle issues following the course.

“It’s not your traditional stand-in-front-of-a-facilitator course,” Hoover explained.

Soldiers are led through immersion lanes that deal with a wide range of topics – sexual harassment/assault, equal opportunity, family advocacy and spiritual readiness – with the overall goal of creating a tighter, more cohesive team from the top down.

“We want Soldiers who are not afraid to combat harmful behavior,” Meeks said. “When I say ‘not afraid,’ I mean you know how to report, you have the courage to report and you know when something is not right.

Hoover said the immersion lanes are meant to be shocking so that Soldiers see and understand what is wrong. When they see it play out before them, or they are playing it out themselves, they remember all the times these situations happened in real life.

“We want you to see, and the Soldiers to see, what that emotion is … we want you to feel it,” Hoover said. “And we want leaders to learn how to talk about those emotions.”

TaNeika Driver-Moultrie, president of the Killeen Chapter of the NAACP, admitted to feeling emotional during the skit that was performed for them and applauded the Soldiers who acted out the scenes with such fervor. She said that she enjoyed the way it was executed, discussed and then performed again with what should have happened.

“I will be honest, this is not what I was expecting, but I am very thankful and grateful that Fort Hood has put individuals in positions to be able to execute such a wonderful program,” Driver-Moultrie said. “I think it’s truly amazing and speaks volumes that they recognize an issue, recognize a concern, heard the community and decided ‘Let’s do something about it.’”

Viewing training
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Roo Huggins and his wife, Charmaine, both members of the Killeen Chapter of the NAACP, watch as a skit is performed in the People First Center at Fort Hood, Texas, March 21. Their group toured the facility to see how the installation is dealing with the safety and well-being of its Soldiers. (Photo Credit: Brandy Cruz, Fort Hood Public Affairs) VIEW ORIGINAL

As the training evolved and continues to evolve, the command team said they realized they needed to start including spiritual readiness because Soldiers need to know they have a safe place to go for counseling or assistance with their families.

“We never talk about the mental aspect of being a Soldier, we never talk about the holistic Soldier, so that’s what we’re focusing on – the holistic Soldier,” Meeks said. “For so many years we focused on shooting and moving and communicating.”

Hoover said what is unique about the People First Center is that the Soldiers realize that it’s a safe place where they can have unique conversations they may have never had before. The uniqueness of the People First Center stood out to NAACP local chapter, who praised the training.

“I thought it was truly amazing, very outstanding and very detailed,” Driver-Moultrie said. “Whoever wrote the curriculum, it was very well-written and executed. I truly hope the Army, as well as other branches of the military, pick this leadership training up.”