Families of the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, share dinner and fellowship in the 1st 72-hour room. (Courtesy photo)

72-hour room keeps people first

By Lt. Col. Anthony Messenger, 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment

The strength of our Army is our people. At Fort Jackson, we invest in our people by creating better leaders and Soldiers for our nation. Fort Jackson generates roughly 48,000 new Soldiers each year for the total Army through our core mission - Basic Combat Training. It is our people, supported by their Families who accomplish our mission. The center of gravity for our mission success is our drill sergeants. They work up to 18 hours each day to ensure our Army has physically fit, mentally tough, and resilient Soldiers proficient in their warrior tasks and drills.

The 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment “First at Vicksburg” team developed the “1st 72-hour room” to provide a space where our people and Families can take a break, maintain connections with each other and build connections to the broader battalion community. This is the first piece of our holistic “People First” plan where our people are protected, enabled and empowered to work at their best while building the cohesiveness and resilience of our team.

The 1st 72-hour room

On the second day of the first 72-hours of a training cycle

We transition the battalion conference room into a space where our drill sergeants can take a break from the grind of the first 72-hours to reset and/or meet up with their Family. We believe that Family fuels and provides purpose for our team.

To help foster a positive climate, we create an enclosed space for young children to play where parents are still close enough to monitor children but can still sit, eat and socialize with their Family or other members of the battalion. We play family-friendly movies on the screens and provide activities to help entertain the kids enabling the adults to connect. The back half of the room is set up as a game area with donated gaming systems, outdoor Jenga and corn hole. The goal of the multiple spaces is to provide multiple means to relax, reset and connect.

The room opens at 6 a.m. and closes to visitors at 10 p.m.

The room has three phases designed to enable our people to be their natural best. In the morning our battalion unit ministry team collaborates with our Soldier, Family Readiness Group to ensure the drill sergeants, and those with families, are greeted with a made to order pancake breakfast including a homemade buttermilk syrup.

During the day, the battalion provides holistic health and fitness-approved snacks for the best fuel to meet the physical demands of the long hours, and a place away from the immediate work environment. This enables drill sergeants to spend time with their loved ones and friends as their schedule allows.

For dinner, the SFRG provides a themed potluck competition. This has two purposes: first, it ensures all the drill sergeants get at least two home cooked meals and time away from the work environment or to spend with their loved ones. Second, it provides a little competition and camaraderie among our battalion teams. The competition is a vote for the best dish. A trophy is presented to the winner. That trophy is passed on to the next cycle’s winner.

Even though the room is open for visitors until 10 p.m., the H2F approved snacks and drinks are offered from after breakfast until the end of the first 72 hours.

The “1st 72-hour Room” is part of the 1st Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment’s investment plan to create a climate and culture where we put our people first.

We believe this event helps to forge stronger individuals, teams and families. Our investment positively affects generations of Soldiers and Families securing our nation's future success. Our team’s feedback has been overwhelmingly positive for this event. As such, our battalion is working to institutionalize the execution of the “1st 72-hour room” event to meet the needs of the Soldiers, Civilians and Families in our First at Vicksburg community.

With each iteration we strive to create an environment in which our people and Families are enabled, empowered and protected to work at their natural best with a true sense of belonging to our Army, Fort Jackson, the Bayonet Brigade and the 1st at Vicksburg family.

In the 1-13th victory truly starts in the 1st 72-hour room.