Story by SGT Von Marie Donato on 04/05/2019SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. (April 04, 2019) Readiness depends on Soldiers and U.S. Army Civilians applying the organization's ethics and values every day in everything they do, on and off duty. The Army profession requires continuous learning and a constant recommitment to the moral standards and equality principles required to grow in one's responsibilities, ranks and roles.
U.S. Army Central provided the opportunity for its federally employed civilians to participate in an Equal Employment Opportunity Counselor Course March 25-29 at the command headquarters.
"The EEO program works to provide fair treatment in employment, promotion, training, and other personnel actions without regard to race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, genetic information or reprisal," said Ivy Merrick, the director for the EEO office at USARCENT. "Therefore, the need for trained counselors in the workplace are of paramount importance to the continued Army mission."
The five-day certification course required students to complete 36 hours of instruction and the passing of a final exam. The curriculum included EEO laws and regulations, the complaint process, theories of discrimination, the EEO counseling process and preparing a counselors report.
"Having EEO counselors in the workplace is vital to promoting equal employment opportunity in the Department of the Army," said Hodges Anthony, the deputy chief of staff for USARCENT. "Not only does discrimination affect morale, it costs the Army the opportunity to employ, promote and retain well qualified employees."
By facilitating resolution of allegations of discrimination quickly and amicably, EEO counselors help the Army operate at higher levels of efficiency while becoming a better employee at the same time, added Anthony.
Barry R. DuBois, the EEO program manager at Fort Drum, traveled from New York to South Carolina to assist with teaching the five-day course.
"As a counselor, federal employee and member of the work community, the counselor is the eyes and ears of the EEO director," said DuBois. "In their day-to-day dealings with employees, leaders and organizations, they are able to identify and surface to the EEO director, employment-related concerns and systemic issues that may exist and affect the work environment. This allows the EEO office to work with the commander and leadership to promptly correct potential problem situations."
Counselors have many duties assigned to them including informing aggrieved individuals of their rights and responsibilities, being knowledgeable about complaint procedures, determining claims, conducting informal inquiries, facilitating resolutions and preparing reports.
Counseling is often the first chance aggrieved persons can articulate their allegations and attempt resolution. Resolution depends to a large extent on the skills and performance of the counselor, added Merrick.
Thus, selecting candidates to become counselors with high regard for the organization's values and standards is crucial. To be considered, a supervisor must agree to nominate the candidate for such a responsibility.
USARCENT had a great turn-out with several civilians in attendance from various backgrounds and specialties.
Robin Thompson, a student in the course and a paralegal specialist at the Command Judge Advocate Office for Area Support GroupKuwait, USARCENT, traveled all the way from the headquarters' forward office overseas to take advantage of this unique training and leadership opportunity.
"I have a strong desire to help others and wanted the opportunity to assist helping individuals that encounter challenging situations that may arise in their workplace," said Thompson. "This also allows me the opportunity to make a difference by resolving issues at the lowest level and to be a part of something that is bigger than myself."
Counselors have the opportunity to not only promote a workplace free of harassment and discrimination, but also one that fosters employee potential and enhances office morale.
Virginia A. Cooper, a student in the course and the family readiness program manager at USARCENT, said the course gave her the tools to better serve her population thus encouraging trust among the civilian workforce and creating a team attitude in her leadership approach.
The responsibility to defend our nation requires a commitment by all, especially leaders, to the foundation of the EEO program. This includes treating everyone with dignity and respect, and always doing the right thing.
"I believe the counseling process increases self-awareness and makes us all better employees and teammates," said Luke McCahan, a student in the course and the executive officer for sustainment at USARCENT. "Not only does the EEO program help resolve issues before they become large problems, it focuses on the resolution procedure, not personalities, and enables people to move forward and remain effective in the workplace."
Having graduates of this course embedded throughout the USARCENT headquarters will ensure issues are handled in an efficient and timely manner with little or no disruption to the mission, creating a civilian workforce that is adaptive, flexible and responsive.