CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Nearly 300 U.S. Army Garrison Japan employees attended a town hall virtually or in-person here Friday as leadership addressed employee concerns and shared updates on programs and services available to the workforce.
The garrison command team began the meeting, which was held at the Camp Zama Community Club, by signing a leadership pledge in support of Army Installation Management Command’s Service Culture Campaign. Since 2017, the initiative has aimed to build a culture of service excellence across the Army.
“This pledge is very important to us, because it helps us clearly define how our team members will be treated – with concern, respect, dignity and a caring attitude,” said Col. Christopher L. Tomlinson, commander of USAG Japan.
As part of that promise, Tomlinson said the command has taken action based on workforce feedback, including the Defense Organizational Climate Survey, or DEOCS, which was conducted last year in the spring and fall.
“Actions taken by the command team and directors ranged from commander inquires, conflict resolution, organizational facilitation and our monthly brown bag sensing sessions – all designed to address your concerns,” he said. “And we will continue to remain vigilant and ensure all voices are heard and are fairly addressed.”
A specific issue mentioned in the surveys was power harassment. Following a recommendation by the Climate Action Team, the colonel approved the creation of a power harassment training video for supervisors and employees that is currently under production.
The team also recommended a separate survey, which Tomlinson approved, for master labor contract employees to solicit their feedback last fall, since they cannot participate in the DEOCS survey.
While the DEOCS survey results saw an improvement from the spring to fall in some areas, Ernestine Robinson, a special projects officer for employee engagement and inclusion, said in her briefing that leaders in the garrison should stay focused on communication, mental health and personal safety.
“Leaders and supervisors must continue to mentor and ensure employees are engaged and have feelings of inclusion,” she said. “Additionally, we must be dedicated in ensuring supervisors and leaders are properly trained in fulfilling their supervisory responsibilities.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Justin E. Turner, senior enlisted leader for USAG Japan, said incidents of power harassment, counterproductive leadership or toxic behaviors have no place in the organization.
“We’re trying to foster an environment of inclusion, where we’re treating everyone with dignity and respect,” Turner said. “I ask leaders to look at your leadership style and use some of the additional tools given to you in order to be more effective.”
During a question-and-answer period, Jeff Zentz, chief of Work Force Development, encouraged local national employees to sign up for Army Civilian Education System courses despite some employees being apprehensive since courses are taught in English.
Zentz said attendance has been low among local nationals, but if they go to a course with an open mind and work hard alongside their teammates, they will be able to complete it.
“If you reach out and take the opportunity, you will graduate with the group,” he said. “Trust me; I guarantee it.”
Jenifer L. Peterson, deputy garrison commander, said the courses offer a unique experience for those who attend. While she understood employees do not want to let their co-workers down by being away weeks for training, she said graduates will be able to contribute even more to their office once they return.
“Besides great leadership training, it’s an opportunity to work with Army classmates from around the world,” she said. “And I definitely encourage everybody to take advantage of that.”
Tomlinson answered another question on if there will be a Garrison Organization Day this year. He said the tentative plan is to hold it on Oct. 7 and for it to take place primarily at Dewey Park on Camp Zama.
“We’re absolutely looking forward to it,” he said.
At the end of the town hall, Tomlinson emphasized that the garrison is a “great team” stretched across 17 sites around the country. Because of that distance, he asked employees to keep garrison leadership informed so they can help the organization become even better.
“We’re operating 1,500 miles across north and south of Japan, and it is critically important that we receive every bit of feedback that you can provide,” he said. “We are committed to continuing our great efforts to make USAG Japan a great place to work and live.”