6865132.jpgMembers of the Army's Equity and Inclusion Department take notes during a Project Inclusion: Your Voice Matters listening session Sept. 21, 2021, at the Soldiers Support Institute auditorium at Fort Jackson, S.C. Soldiers and civilians were invited to attend the in-person session or tune into the session online to offer their anonymous concerns and recommendations about equality and inclusion on the installation. The comments were gathered and presented to U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis and his staff. (Alexandra Shea)

By Alexandra Shea, Fort Jackson Public Affairs

People are the Army’s number one priority. Soldiers and Department of Defense Civilians, had their voices heard during a series of Your Voice Matters listening sessions Sept. 20 through 21 at the Soldier Support Institute.

Those unable to attend in-person tuned in online to listen and contribute their comments and recommendations. An e-mail address was also provided to all Soldiers and civilians to leave anonymous feedback.

“The need to have a candid dialogue with colleagues on sensitive topics is crucial,” said an Army release about the sessions. “That’s why Army leaders created Project Inclusion: Your Voice Matters listening sessions.”

Each hour and a half listening session was closed to anyone but Soldiers and civilians who work for the Army to create an opportunity for them to talk freely without risk of reprisal. A team from the Army’s Equity and Inclusion Division traveled from Virginia to conduct the sessions and take name-free notes.

“We gave Soldiers and civilians a place they can feel comfortable to voice their concerns or anything that might affect their readiness,” said Master Sgt. Natasha Burke, Fort Jackson’s Equal Opportunity Program manager. “Also to let them know that every Soldier and civilian does have a voice.”

Various topics were presented to help open the session and to encourage attendees to open up and discuss the potential impacts of diversity, equity and inclusion as well as climate, command leadership trust, gender, ethnicity, race, and racial tension on the Army and its Soldiers and civilians.

“The Army must foster an equitable and inclusive environment that facilitates building diverse, adaptive, and cohesive teams who enable the Army to build and sustain readiness,” the release stated as one of the listening sessions goals.

Each of the nation’s Army installations have or will receive a team from the Equality and Inclusion Department to conduct these listening sessions and provide feedback to their respective command teams.

After the sessions were completed, all the notes were compiled, organized and presented to U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commanding General Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis and his staff for review.

The comments will give Michaelis and his staff an opportunity to review current or create new policies and procedures to make improvements that will benefit all Soldiers and civilians across Fort Jackson.

“The Equity and Inclusion team have direct contact with senior staff,” Burke said “They will give feedback to our installation’s command team and also take it up higher. I hope when they brief the concerns to the commands they listen to their Soldiers and civilians to help make change.”