Take a knee
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- A guy struck by lightning, one who wrestled an alligator, a geologist, a drummer in a jazz band, and a person who swam with dolphins on the Flipper Show -- not the usual suspects a person would expect to find at a Network Enterprise Center.

But there they are among the technicians, administrators, clerical staff, managers, and leaders who work alongside each other every day at the Redstone Arsenal NEC. Like many of us, they many not take enough regular down time to realize the human interest side of their coworkers.

But in a few hours of down time recently, coworkers at the NEC "took a knee" from the grind to learn more about each other and the organization as they had a good time together.

"Usually our hair is on fire, and we're running around just trying to meet deadlines," said Melissa Tripp, information manager, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., NEC. "We're all taxed, we're short staffed and what we find is that we're all running 90 to nothing."

The stressors in the NEC, while usually plenty high, kept mounting last year for many workers at the NEC according to Ricky Prince, deputy director, NEC-R.

In addition to the normal routine, we had BRAC [Base Realignment Commission] projects, I3MP [Installation, Information, Infrastructure Modernization Program], less staff, two of five main contracts re-competed, severe winter storms, a tornado, and three deaths," he said. "It all led to the 'perfect storm' as they say."

To combat the intense pace at work, the leadership team realized they needed more than an annual picnic or a town hall meeting.

Prince tasked Tripp and Deborah Plunkett, the NEC's administrative specialist, to develop a program to help bring people together, improve awareness and morale, and help reduce stress.

In about two weeks, they spearheaded the NEC's first division offsite, which they held at RA's The Lodge, a rustic retreat at the Cliffs, overlooking the Tennessee River.

Organizing and conducting regular offsite programs is now a required part of supervisors' job requirements. With more than 300 employees, the goal for the program is for all the divisions and sections to participate over time.

The first offsite included a potluck lunch, 15 minute briefs by each section, an employee introduction period and team building exercises.

Following each section brief, employees answered questions to gauge their understanding of the briefing section's duties and responsibilities.

Winners received one of two prizes: a 59 minute time off certificate or a one-day job swap with another employee.

"It was a good time to get to know each others jobs, each others functions, bring people together, let them relax and just have a good time," said Plunkett.

The good time included a three-legged race as part of the team building exercises.

"We took two volunteers from each table, tied their legs together, put balloons between their knees, and they had to walk together, as a team, across the room," said Tripp.

To help better introduce workers to each other, the participants anonymously wrote five facts about themselves on cards, redistributed them, took turns reading the information aloud, and guessing which person matched the details.

The key results of the offsite included learning more about coworkers, a better understanding of the missions for each branch, and tighter camaraderie according to Tripp and Plunkett.

"We really came together during the offsite," said Tripp. "They all really, really had a good time,

and we just don't do that often enough."

The pace at the Army's NECs has increased exponentially the past few years with the push to provide the Army a true enterprise network according to Brig. Gen. LaWarren V. Patterson, commanding general, 7th SC(T).

"We are all human and we can quickly burn out if we don't regularly take a knee so we can rejuvenate and balance life's priorities," said Patterson. "This program is one great way to help balance the hectic pace of life on the job, and I encourage other units to conduct similar functions."