By Brig. Gen. Milford H. "Beags" Beagle Jr.
Fort Jackson Commanding General
Over the past six months, Fort Jackson and our team have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds to continue training, protect our workforce and Families, and provide necessary programs and services for our local community. Consider this: Training over 10,000 Soldiers at any given time, bringing 15 of 20 essential programs and services online without re-closure, reducing backlogs of 300-plus housing work orders below double digits, and without enabling the mass spread of a deadly virus is considered by some, nothing short of miraculous.
You may ask yourself, so what is the biggest threat to these so-called successes? The answer is simple, but far from obvious—FEAR. Fear is our most significant danger moving forward. Many may view what we have accomplished as "successes." I prefer to view them as indicators of our collective ability to rapidly adapt to changes, exhibit that we are a learning organization, and members of a community who willingly believe in each other as displayed through essential teamwork, effort, and understanding. Nonetheless, fear of the unknown duration of the insidious pandemic and the weariness caused by constant vigilance will erode over time and create seams and gaps for fear to creep into our minds, our formations, and eventually our installation. We cannot afford to give into to fear, and here is why:
"We have nothing to fear but fear itself" - Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Some people find comfort in provoking fear only for the sake of creating discomfort and doubt. The entertainment value of causing others to have self-doubt, being less self-assured and self-confident is amusing to some folks. Even so, misery loves company. The easiest way to spread fear is through misinformation, rumor, and having conversations using disingenuous facts. Most of this misinformation and fact-free dialogues occur in the information space, and as it pertains to Fort Jackson, play out on multiple social media platforms. Despite our best efforts to provide timely, accurate, and transparent information, we often fall victim to misinformation campaigns. I once heard someone state that "rumor can be around the world and back before the truth has an opportunity to get out of bed." Nothing could be more accurate in the information age.
On the surface, this sentiment has some wise and inherent truths embedded within it. Regardless, our efforts concerning COVID-19 and other vital topics, we choose to remain focused on using accurate, timely, and transparent information to inform everyone. The best way to prevent misinformation from clouding your judgment, opinions, and thoughts is to remain plugged into our efforts to inform.
Take the time to draw your conclusions based on your evaluation of the facts and relevant information. Tune into our bi-weekly town hall meetings that focus on COVID-19 and other topics of interest. Download our Fort Jackson App to your phone, read the Fort Jackson Leader each week, and watch our Fort Jackson command channel on Spectrum channel 1304 for up to date information. Replace opinion with fact, misinformation with accurate information, and replace knowledge gaps with knowledge.
Fear only begets more Fear
Because of fear, "Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small" - Ruth Gendler.
It is challenging to operate with a clear mind and consciousness when fear is the dominant occupant in one's mind. We all function and act in a different way when fear is a factor. This statement stands to reason given our human response of "fight or flight." Do we prepare ourselves to stay and deal with a threat, or do we run away, often avoiding facts and accurate information presented? We will continue to stand and fight COVID-19, and we must not throw up our hands in defeat.
Some view others as being "afraid" of the COVID-19 (virus). Others view it as robbing them of their way of life, freedoms, and familiar routines, habits, and behaviors. The effects of COVID-19 are real, whether we believe them or not. Many lives have been lost at an alarming rate since the onset of this global pandemic. I firmly believe COVID-19 is not something to be "feared." Accurate medical information about this virus must be understood. We must take appropriate measures every day to curb the spread of this terrible virus.
COVID-19 has proven to be a formidable foe. It moves with impunity everywhere without regard for rank, station, age, gender, or other classifications. Like any opponent that we face, whether it be a visible enemy or an ideology, we must respect it to better understand what we face. Instead of being afraid of COVID-19, we can reduce it to what it is; a respiratory virus. By suitably implementing measures such as wearing masks, proper personal hygiene, and health monitoring, we can easily defeat our foe. However, when we question every change, challenge every protocol, and argue with the folks who must enforce these protocols, we turn a winnable fight into a fight between ourselves AND the virus. Respect COVID-19 for what it is and be flexible enough to change just as quickly as the virus causes us to change how we deal with it. COVID gets a vote, but so do we.
"Fear has Two Meanings: 1) Forget everything and Run or 2) Face everything and Rise; the choice is yours" -Anonymous.
For this article, I'll end where I started. Team Jackson has accomplished a great deal despite COVID-19 and the current pandemic. We must not forget what we have achieved over the past six-plus months. The credit belongs to all of our teammates: our civilian workforce, our drill sergeants, leaders, support cadre, contractors, Families, community, etc.
It is not that we need to boast about our achievements or accomplishments. We simply need to look at what we've accomplished as examples of what is in the realm of possibilities. Sure, it has not been easy, nor has this journey been a preferred one, but we continue to blaze a unique path for others to follow. Fear was with us at the starting line and surely will be with us when we reach the finish line, wherever that may be, and fear has not dictated how we run our race. We must continue to reduce fear, and its brothers (anxiety, stress, and uncertainty) to levels that we all can manage effectively and continually. We succeed by communicating, being transparent, and, most importantly, recognizing when fear is increasing.
At every level, we each have someone to the left or right of us to count on. In the aggregate, we all have each other as teammates. Whether you hear information that you may not like, agree with or appreciate, always seek your own clarification, and don't stop until you receive a reasonable answer. Opinions don't gain us much in this fight against COVID-19, but they are necessary nonetheless. Facts, accurate information, and honesty in our communication is paramount. Please do not be satisfied by being in the ranks of those who are content with not knowing and therefore creating even larger seams for fear to exploit. We have plenty on our hands to deal with in the months ahead, and if we can reduce one more threat (FEAR), we will make it a little easier to deal with the more significant threat that we currently face - COVID-19.
One Team, One Fight, One Family! Victory. Starts Here!!