By Spc. Justin Naylor, 2nd BCT PAO, 1st Cav. Div.April 23, 2010
FORT HOOD, Texas-Taking care of Soldiers is a responsibility shared by all Army leaders, but for some it goes a step further.
Sgt. 1st Class Robert Bee, a Rochester, Minn. native and Equal Opportunity Advisor for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, is always available, 24 hours a day, with an open chair and an open mind
For the last five years, Bee has served as both an Equal Opportunity Leader at the company and battalion level, and an EOA at the brigade level.
"I have assisted Soldiers with a lot of equal opportunity issues," said Bee. "But, I have also helped Soldiers with a variety of personal and professional problems as well."
Although his duty description primarily involves issues pertaining to race, religion, national origin, color and gender; he has also helped Soldiers cope with financial concerns, educational assistance, and even suicide intervention, he explained.
"I'm an outlet," said Bee. "I feel that I have a special ability to listen to Soldiers' problems. I'm a standalone resource, much like the chaplain or inspector general, who can listen to Soldiers' issues or concerns."
Bee, like every other EOA, didn't begin his Army career as such. He first joined the Army as an armor crewman, where he progressed through the ranks to become a platoon sergeant.
According to Bee, this position gave him insight into the kinds of issues faced by EOAs. An important part of his job was helping Soldiers learn to work together cohesively. He also helped sort out issues that arose out of having people from different races, religions, and cultures working inside the cramped environment of a tank.
"This really helped me prepare for what I was going to experience in the future," he said.
Bee later volunteered for the position of EOA because he felt that the job would allow him the opportunity to help Soldiers understand one another better.
Bee is the only EOA for the more than 4,000 Soldiers of 2nd BCT.
Soldiers are required to participate in classes that focus on EO, and Bee thinks the training reinforces the Army's commitment to his position because it emphasizes his role as a value-added member of the command team.
"The Army cares for our Soldiers, and we are serious about their well-being," he said. As the Army improves on the existing program, Soldiers can expect to see continued emphasis.
Recently, Bee competed against 10 other EOAs in the Department of the Army Equal Opportunity Advisor of the Year competition, an event designed to highlight EOAs who excel at their duties.
Bee said the competition looks at what each EOA has done to make the unit's EO program successful.
"They like to see EOAs who are involved in their communities and who live the creed 'Dignity and Respect for All,'" he said.
For the competition, Bee traveled to Washington, D.C., where he and the other contestants attended a luncheon with Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Horne, the director of the Human Resources Policy Directorate. Following the luncheon, Bee and several other contestants were recognized as runner-ups with Department of the Army certificates of achievement and statues in appreciation for the work they had done.
In addition to this competition, Bee earned the EOA of the Year title for Multi-National Corps-Iraq during 2nd BCT's tour in Kirkuk in 2009.
Bee's two-year stint as an EOA-the length of time Soldiers usually spend in that position-will end soon, and he expects to return to his job as a platoon sergeant.
"In the two years that I've been the EOA for the brigade, it has been a very interesting experience in being able to talk to the Soldiers," said Bee.
Although Bee won't be in the same office, he leaves this job with an open invitation to Soldiers.
"Soldiers and leaders can always come see me, call me or email me," he said. "I'm available all the time."