CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea – U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys junior-enlisted Soldiers and leaders participated in an equal opportunity focused reverse panel hosted by the Better Opportunity for Single Soldiers Program at, the Family Theater March 22.
“This is our second reverse panel for the year,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Lemon, USAG Humphreys, senior enlisted advisor. “We will be talking about EO so the focus of conversation is to bring to light to any issues with our EO program, really with the perspective from our junior Soldiers.”
Lemon asked the junior Soldiers and leaders to be receptive and empathetic to each other’s questions and to be concise and respectful in their responses because they never know what someone is going through, other than that no question about the EO program was off the table.
Spc. Ian Holmes, USAG Humphreys BOSS president, reading off a written question, asked what a Soldier Can do if their identity and pronouns do not match their Soldier Record Brief, and they want their unit to call them by their correct pronoun but are worried about backlash.
According to Master Sgt. Creshawna Stevens, 501st Military Intelligence Brigade equal opportunity advisor, once the change hits DEERS and is reflected on their SRB, it is mandatory to address the Soldier by their pronoun. In the meantime, as always, the Soldier should still be treated with respect.
A unique part of serving in Korea is getting to serve alongside Korean Augmentation to the United States Army.
“There are two great things you can do to incorporate yourself with your KATUSAs one is the BOSS inclusion cup it requires two male, two female and two KATUSAs, so that is a great opportunity to work with your KATUSAs outside of your work environment,” said Capt. Kevin Pham, USAG Humphreys, Headquarters and Headquarters Company commander.
Pham continued, “The other great opportunity, in June there is Friendship Week for the ROK/U.S. alliance. That is your chance to meet other KATUSAs in other organizations as well as your own. It involves outdoor sports and games. There are deliberate events each year that both USFK and Eighth Army put together to strengthen the alliance.”
No matter where our service members are from or how they identify, they should feel included at all echelons where they have a presence and treated with respect.
Other equal opportunity topics addressed were temporary religious accommodations for Muslim male Soldiers who grow their beards as a sign of faithfulness in their religion.
One Soldier reflected on a time in Advanced Individual Training when he saw two of his battle buddies asked to shave their beards while waiting to get religious exemption paperwork approved.
“I don’t know why, per se, there is not a temporary accommodation,” said Stevens. “I cannot say why the Army hasn’t made it okay for you to wear your beard temporarily, but once you do that one thing, you kind of have to open everything up that goes up for approval. You’ve got to kind of allow everything, that depends on approval, to be temporary until it’s denied.”
Stevens explained further, “You start with a beard and next it’s updating your SRB with your pronouns that you identify with before it’s approved in DEERS, then it trickles. Once you let one thing go, it’s like why we can’t do this temporarily or this temporarily?”
While leaders strove to educate junior Soldiers about topics they asked about, they also encouraged those Soldier to lean in and talk about the obstacles and issues they feel are not being heard by their leadership.
One of the participants stated that she believed a lot of good Soldiers are being pushed out of the Army because of toxic leadership. She also asked how the culture of the Army was supposed to change if these good Soldiers were to leave.
“I get it. Nothing requires you to go to your leadership and ask for permission to talk to a subject matter expert, whether it be an EOA or EOL. You simply let them know, ‘I would like to go speak with my EOL or EOA,’” said Stevens. “I hope you go back and let your peers and Soldiers know at any time you can go and talk to your company EOL or your brigade EOA. There are systems in place to protect Soldiers, but Soldiers just don’t know about them, and it’s up to us as EOAs to get out there and educate the force. The flip side to that too, and I always have to say this, there is a system, and it is a system that will not be weaponized.”
When going to talk to your company EOL or brigade EOA you are not required to file a complaint right away. They will make time for you to talk through your issue, while trying to find a solution to handle things at the lowest level.
“We have a dialogue, we educate you, and we ask about handling things at the lowest level,” said Stevens. “We don’t make you do anything. We work together, to figure out whether it falls under the six protected categories of EO and find out what you want to do.”
Stevens finished by saying she understands fear of reprisal keeps Soldiers from moving forward with talking to an EOL or EOA.
“I was once a young Soldier. We cannot do anything about things we don’t know anything about,” she emphasized. “It doesn’t take away the offense; it doesn’t take away the fact that we know you are scared. If you don’t even give us the opportunity to address it or fix it, you are kind of stuck with that problem. We cannot hit hidden targets.”
The Equal Opportunity program main mission is to help foster a workplace of trust and inclusion and free of discrimination based on sex, gender, race, religion, age, or national origin. Where Soldiers are treated with respect and dignity, free to enhance their skills and perform to their fullest potential.
There is a EOL assigned to all companies. Check your EO program board for contact information. Brigade EOAs are in Bldg. 311, located in Sentry Village.