FORT HOOD, Texas - Female Soldiers met at Comanche Chapel here, Nov. 17-18, to participate in Band of Sisters Fort Hood, an event that offered them a space to share their stories freely and heal from their past experiences.
Band of Sisters was founded in Nashville, Tennessee, by female chaplains in 2015. Their goal is to “build spiritual resiliency in our members, reducing SHARP (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention) and EO (Equal Opportunity) incidents statistically strengthening the military.”
During the event, the Soldiers were invited to share their stories, as well as participate in therapeutic art activities led by Wendy Caldwell and listen to guest speaker Dr. Tiffany Tajiri.
“My favorite part of the event is seeing the ‘aha’ moments through nonverbal expression of the participants when, through the storytelling, they discovered chaplains have situations similar to them and that we are not exempt from the second and third order effects of counterproductive leadership wherever and with whomever we serve,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Lisa Northway, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, U.S. Army Garrison - Fort Hood. “When these Soldiers put personal courage toward expressing and owning their own stories, the connection of heart, mind, and spirit to become a more healed version of themselves was so evident. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to celebrate each person through their creative arts process, as well.”
Attendees were encouraged to own their stories. The activities throughout the two days helped them to do that.
“For me, owning your story means appreciating and acknowledging the good and the ugly parts while understanding they all played an important role in who you are and (who you will become),” Chaplain (Capt.) Tammy Briggs, South Central Chaplain Recruiting Station, conveyed. “If we never own it and accept it, we will live in shame. Shame keeps us from telling our truth because of what we believe others will think about us. When we realize that our story is the key to what makes us, we will share it confidently without concerning ourselves with what others think. Everyone has a story—which is a mixture of joy, pain, highs, lows, trials and triumphs.”
Northway said reading the after-action reviews showed how important events like Band of Sisters Fort Hood can be for Soldiers.
“I think providing places for ourselves and others we serve with that are conducive to resting our minds, even in the middle of a duty day, is essential,” she said. “As leaders, I think we need to ask ourselves, 'Where do my teammates go to rest their minds when they’re stressed?' If they are waiting 'til the weekend to address the daily interpersonal conflicts, it can have detrimental or even disastrous consequences.”
Northway was also very happy to be able to include male service members in the event, so they could better learn to care for themselves, as well as their sisters in arms.
“I think we’ve just begun to tap into some methods of healing in our communities where women or men in uniform historically can’t sit through an EO or SHARP briefing without being subjected to their more insecure peers snickering, scoffing or even shaming anyone who claims to have experienced an offense or worse, is threatened with their livelihood from someone in their formation,” she said. “Until this year, as a chaplain, I had never had the privilege of sitting through a briefing without being pulled for urgent counseling by someone who was constantly being triggered by the negative way the content was being received. My current company command team is especially healthy and I’m thankful that I’ve had such a positive experience which in turn means my teammates are likely having a better experience. I maintain that while one gender trainings can offer a depth of conversation and healing through training, we truly are better together, shoulder to shoulder, getting after the health of the force.”
Northway will soon depart Fort Hood for a new assignment as the garrison chaplain at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. She said she was grateful to many for making the last major event before her move such a great success.
“I’m thankful for Chaplain (Capt. retired) Jennifer Lane who founded Band of Sisters with a generous grant from the Office of the Chief of Chaplains while serving in Hawaii in 2017. The Fort Hood Band of Sisters was funded by a generous grant through the Garrison Religious Support Office’s Chaplains Program Budget Committee. I’m thankful to the members of the Religious Support Community here at Fort Hood, who came together to make it the great training event it was and who are key to truly making Fort Hood the Great Place.”