July 16, 2009

Equal Opportunity Advisors enthusiastic to begin their new assignment

By Capt. Matthew Nowak
Virginia Army National Guard Public Affairs

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -  Four Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers graduated the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute June 24 at Florida’s Patrick Air Force Base to become Virginia’s newest Equal Opportunity Advisors and are eager to start their new role.

 

Four Virginia Army National Guard Soldiers graduated from the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute June 26 at Patrick Air Force Base. From left to right are Master Sgt. Anthony Bombay, Sgt. 1st Class Clara Vargas, Sgt. 1st Class Patricia Bunns and 1st. Lt. Kervin Sider. (Photo by Capt. Matt Nowak, Virginia Army Guard Public Affairs)


“At DEOMI, we learned about racism, sexism, extremism, and religious discrimination.  We worked in small groups and did activities to reinforce what we have learned.  I learned about my own personal biases and barriers and how to overcome them to be an effective equal opportunity advisor,” said 1st Lt. Kervin Strider, one of the course graduates. “This training will help me identify policies or actions that will be counter productive to a healthy EO environment.  EO is a force multiplier for a unit because if Soldiers know they are valued and the unit is genuinely concerned about them, then the Soldier will give the unit everything they have got.”

Sider will serve as the Virginia Army National Guard's full-time EOA, reporting directly to Assistant Adjutant General for the Army, Brig. Gen. Stephen Huxtable. His first task will be to conduct a statewide EO climate survey.  He will also become a force multiplier and assist in training Equal Opportunity Leaders for battalion or lower commands. At the EOA course, Sider was named to the Commandant’s List for placing in the top 20% of his graduating class.

“An effective equal opportunity program is essential to the success of any unit in today’s military,” said Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia. “Mutual courtesy and respect between Soldiers and Airman is critical to unit cohesion, and anything less than that puts a unit’s ability to accomplish their mission at risk. These newly-trained advisors will help our senior commanders make sure they are taking the right steps with our equal opportunity programs.”

Since EO is not just a one-weekend-a-month subject, Sider will provide assistance to his fellow EOA graduates who are traditional Soldiers, regardless of the command.

After completing the four-week course, each student will be serving as an Equal Opportunity Advisor to an O-6 commander or higher. The advisor’s responsibilities include assisting to prevent, reduce, or eliminate discriminatory practices within the command. They are also subject matter experts assessing the organizational climate and identifying human relations concerns and issues that pose threat to command climate, unit cohesion, readiness, mission accomplishment, Sider said. Many of these issues are prevalent in today’s military and societal environments around the globe, he added.

If not already completed, one of their first tasks will be updating or determining their unit’s equal opportunity climate in order to establish a baseline, and if necessary, offer the best course of action to improve the climate, Sider said.

One tool to gauge the climate is conducting an online survey. A link to the survey will be sent via email to Soldiers for completion. This is one of the easiest and simplest ways for an EOA to get information on the climate and it offers an anonymous and private response, he said.

Equal Opportunity is the Commander’s program, which the unit commander gives guidance and direction to. Successful programs are based on command emphasis, leader modeling, and effective training at the unit level, Sider said.

To show the importance of Virginia Army Guard’s commitment to EO, Huxtable flew to Patrick Air Force Base to attend the graduation. He presented each soldier with a coin to reward them for their excellence and let them know he had high expectations for them.

“I feel it is important for the graduates, and commands, to know how serious I (the TAG and myself) believe in a strong EO program,” Huxtable stressed. “A strong readiness program needs a strong equal opportunity program. They go hand and hand. If all of the soldiers feel that they are respected and treated fairly, they will give to the mission and to their fellow soldier all that they can to be successful.”

“They have to want to attend this course,” said Maj. Mark Stewart, DEOMI’s Army National Guard liaison and a Virginia Guardsman serving on Title 10, active duty orders. “Students have to work hard to graduate. Some Soldiers see the geographic location of the school and think they will have a paid vacation. We train on weekends and holidays; they were only given three planned days off and typical days are from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and, depending on assignments, can go later than that. This is a challenging course; the pace is intense and the expectations are high.”

In order to be able to attend the four-week course each student had to complete Phase I, an intensive online course consisting of nine components which helped prepare students for the Phase II resident course.  

Phase II prepares Equal Opportunity Advisors to perform their mission by providing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with their job requirements. The curriculum develops a base of knowledge and skills that allow graduates to assess human relations climates in the organizations they serve, and to provide advice and assistance to commanders to prevent, reduce, or eliminate discriminatory practices. In-resident training also includes instruction in presentation skills, organizational assessment and complaint processing; all vital in preparing an EOA to perform their mission. Additionally, other lessons like Education, Training, & Awareness will provide students some basic knowledge and practical skills to design, develop, and deliver training programs.

The mission of DEOMI is to assist its customers in optimizing their combat readiness by promoting human dignity through equity education, diversity, cultural competency, research, and consultation worldwide. DEMOI will also serve as a force multiplier that maximizes combat readiness.

In total 60 students graduated from the Equal Opportunity Advisor course. Various branches of the military were represented, including the Navy, Air Force, Army and Department of Defense civilians.

The following Soldiers graduated DEOMI’s Equal Opportunity Advisor Course, June 24th:

Sgt. 1st Class Patricia Bunns, 183rd Regional Training Institute, Fort Pickett
Master Sgt. Anthony Bombay, 29th Infantry Division, Fort Belvoir
Sgt. 1st Class Clara Vargas, 329th Regional Support Group, Virginia Beach
1st. Lt. Kervin Sider, Joint Forces Headquarters, Fort Pickett

As part of their after action review, each Soldier stated that Equal Opportunity is a full-time duty and primary mission. They serve the commander to ensure that the organization is healthy and able to carry on its mission.

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