Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti – The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa team consists of a diverse fusion of different teams all coming together to accomplish the same mission and each individual team member also brings their own diverse experiences and outlooks to the team.
The Equal Opportunity program, facilitated through an Equal Opportunity Advisor (EOA) and Equal Opportunity Leaders (EOLs), guarantees the workplace remains a respectful and open environment to all. To ensure these leaders have the knowledge, skills and resources to ensure the commanders' equal opportunity intent is met, they attend the Equal Opportunity Leadership Course (EOLC), led by the CJTF-HOA EOA.
“A benefit of having the joint force involved is getting the opportunity to learn from each other, bringing together our differences and seeing the benefits of each branch,” said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Felicia Penn, CJTF-HOA EOA. “Learning some of the things the Army has or the Navy has, allows us to gain knowledge and utilize all of the tools to cross-reference and sharpen one another.”
The course focuses on the duties and responsibilities of EOLs throughout the organization across four days of instruction. Discussion topics range from conflict resolution to bias and communication across cultures and generations.
“I wanted students to realize this is not something new but it is a really important program,” said Penn. “Military Equal Opportunity is not just about the complaint process, but about getting people to understand that fairness, equity, inclusion and diversity all matter. Once we realize that, we can minimize the issues and complaints.”
With the knowledge garnered from these topics, EOLs are able to recognize things that may be unintentional in order to intervene with training and resources to help servicemembers navigate a multi-cultural, joint environment made up of professionals from wide backgrounds including numerous religions, sexual orientations and personal value systems.
“The biggest thing I took away was conflict management skills,” said Army Sgt. Joseph Walling, 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade multichannel transmission systems operator maintainer. “As a young noncommissioned officer, those communication skills are something I’d like to master early in my career.”
In order to establish high quality training standards across CJTF-HOA, the EOLC teaches participants effective techniques for conducting EO training. The fourth day of instruction was focused toward delivering effective briefs using interactive scenarios, audiovisual presentations and audience-oriented discussion. Briefers were graded based on established standards and given feedback to improve their skills to maximize engagement from their audiences.
“In this class we’re making change-agents and they will go out and find ways to make the organization and climate better. They can bring those tools back to the classroom and help us to build better change agents. It’s iron sharpening iron,” said Penn.
Course graduates earn the title of EOL and serve as an extension of commander and director’s equal opportunity efforts while living and working on Camp Lemonnier.
“One of the most important things I hope they take away is the value that we, in the military, have,” said Penn. “Dignity, respect, selfless service and all the values we hold true – if applied, will have a positive impact on mission and our well-being.”