CAMP ZAMA, Japan – U.S. Army Garrison Japan leaders provided updates and answered employees’ questions during a workforce town hall at Kizuna Hall here Tuesday.
Col. Marcus Hunter, garrison commander, emphasized during the forum the importance of having an open dialogue and a shared understanding throughout the workforce.
“We’re all in so many different areas on such a diverse group of missions,” he said. “It’s not often that we’re able to all come together, and so when we do, it’s important to share directly because other directorates and sections could have similar questions or concerns.”
At the start of the meeting, Hunter, along with Command Sgt. Maj. David A. Rio, garrison senior enlisted leader, and Jenifer L. Peterson, deputy garrison commander, signed two pledges in support of U.S. Army Installation Management Command’s Service Culture Initiative.
Since 2017, the initiative has aimed to create a culture of service excellence across the Army.
“The Service Culture Campaign is built upon the fundamental premise that service excellence is a byproduct of how we treat our IMCOM professions,” said Jeff Zentz, chief of Work Force Development.
One of the pledges, the leadership pledge, outlines to leaders the principles associated with taking care of subordinates, such as treating them with the same respect and care as garrison customers.
“It serves as a visible reminder, to both leaders and the led, of the minimum requirements and expectations for caring and connected leadership,” Zentz said.
The second pledge, to those whom the garrison serves, recognizes the contributions and sacrifices Soldiers and their families make to the nation.
“As a service provider organization, we create value for the Army, Soldiers, families, retirees, civilians and each other through consistent and easily accessible service,” Zentz said.
Later during the meeting, which was also held virtually, Hunter fielded a question on the possibility of extending tours for Army civilians.
As he responded to the potential loss of institutional knowledge when civilians rotate out, the colonel noted the garrison will extend civilians from three to five years based on the position and recommendations. Any further extension is made at the IMCOM level to ensure other civilians have an opportunity to work overseas.
Zentz added that if a civilian decides to extend past five years, they may also lose their return rights to their previous position and could eventually be placed where the Army needs them.
“We have to be really careful,” he said. “Sometimes people make decisions that, in the short term, may be good for them, but not in the long term.”
In response to another question on being promoted within the garrison, Peterson said employees can set up alerts using different keywords on USAJOBS.gov to be notified when a job opens. The Directorate of Human Resources also regularly emails job openings to the garrison distribution list, she said.
She also said U.S. and local national employees should work with their supervisors to create an individual development plan to take advantage of training opportunities, such as Civilian Education System courses and the Pacific Leadership Academy programs.
On-the-job training within the garrison may also be available to employees.
“That’s something you need to work with your supervisor depending on the current workflow in your office,” she said. But “there may be an opportunity for you to help in a different area and broaden your experience.”
Some of the pillars in the leadership pledge, Hunter said, are to promote personal growth and professional development for employees, among other priorities that the garrison continually implements.
“And we can do more and should do more,” he said. “We all own this leadership pledge.”
He advised garrison employees to seek help or clarification when guidance from their supervisors is unclear.
“I know those are hard conversations to have,” he said. “So my challenge [to you] is to bring it up to your leaders, and leaders when you receive that feedback … respond in a way that is caring, compassionate and attempting to understand.”
Rio echoed a similar sentiment by saying communication is the key to mission success.
“Communication, in and of itself, does not always solve the problem, but there aren’t too many solutions to be had that don’t involve communication as a key part of the process,” he said. “So, if we are communicating with each other, whether that’s interpersonal relationship issues, work issues or whatever it is, we are communicating and working toward a solution. That’s where we want to be at.”
The garrison command team also requires candid feedback from employees. A Defense Organizational Climate Survey will take place soon, said Hunter, who encouraged employees to participate in it.
“What I would ask, and what I need your feedback on in those survey results, are your thoughts, reflections and recommendations,” he said.
The input can then help build a stronger garrison, so it can continue to serve as a “people first” organization.
“‘People first’ means people matter,” Hunter said. “That means I’m going to consider my people in the decisions that I make, but not necessarily every decision I make will be the easiest, most convenient or most comfortable situation for my people.
“But my pledge is to consider that first and, within the constraints of the mission, make sure to the utmost possible that we are treating our people fairly.”