Story and photo by Sgt. Isolda McClelland, 29th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
BAGHDAD— United States Division-Center recently graduated its first Equal Opportunity Leadership Class held in Baghdad, Iraq. This class of 30 Soldiers will be the eyes and ears of their individual commanders in matters concerning possible discriminatory practices because of race, color, gender, religion, and natural origin.
“Every command is responsible for having an equal opportunity program in place.” said Sgt. 1st Class Marliser Fergerson, USD-C equal opportunity advisor. “The EOL’s are utilized at the squad, company and battalion level, where we, the equal opportunity advisors, are those senior noncommissioned officers at the brigade level.”
The instruction given in this class is important to any commander trying to put together an effective EO program, said Fergerson.
“This is a 60-hour course completed in a week,” said Fergerson. “We teach the information first, then we test their knowledge through a series of readings and practical exercises. We use true events as (part of the) practical exercises to get a reaction, and based on (what) the reaction is, we discuss what happened, and that is usually when we find what we have taught them sticks (with them). “
The EO program not only provides Soldiers and family members protection from discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion and natural origin, it also provides educational information about several important observances, to include, National African American History Month, Women’s History Month, and a day of remembrance of the Holocaust as well as others.
The EO program contains many layers and attending the course filled in many details that some students may not have been familiar with.
“Although I thought I knew of the EOL program, I now understand how to implement the program,” said Staff Sgt. Matthew Smock, the operations noncommissioned officer in charge with C Company, 40th Expeditionary Signal Battalion. “I now know the importance of the different observances, as well as watching the attitudes of those people around you to help advise my commander better.”
Fergerson explained there are many areas that the EOL can be helpful to the commander, such as being able to advise the commander on any possible discriminatory issues or concerns, before it has to be taken to a higher level.
“Our main goal for the EOL is to help those commanders to stop overlooking those smaller infractions (and) address them on the spot,” said Master Sgt. Robert Broadwater Jr., senior EO advisor for USD-C.
And many in the course felt it was successful with achieving that goal.
“Because of my job I was always a part of the EO process,” said Marie Swieta the behavioral health NCOIC with 547th Area Support Medical Company. “Now I know how to define my role in the complaint process. I learned how to assist with a sensing session and how to better utilize the EOA to assist me and the command.”
The graduates of the recent EOL course who have been on multiple deployments noticed a difference in the climate of the EO program as time has progressed.
“This is my third deployment here,” said Staff Sgt. Paul Brantley the water purification NCOIC with Company A, 299th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Infantry Division. “… where compared to the first time, the concept of EO has evolved with the war. There are many more considerations of Soldiers and people in general and that is a good thing.”
That change over time has worked to better provide a platform that formulates, directs and sustains a comprehensive effort to ensure treatment of all Soldiers solely on merit, capability and potential.
“True leaders are committed to the success of their units, Soldiers, and family members by ensuring that dignity of all personnel is maintained.” said Master Sgt. Ronnie E. Blount Jr., the senior EO advisor with United States Forces- Iraq. “The EOL course is designed to produce a highly capable advisor to the commander on EO and human relations issues.”
The next EOL course is scheduled from April 11-16, 2011 at Camp Liberty. For more information contact: Master Sgt. Robert Broadwater Jr. at DSN: 318-847-2532.