Written by Sgt. Katie Eggers
Headquarters, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
Baghdad, Iraq – After five days of classes, Staff Sgt. Cara Duda stood in front of her peers at the Tree of Life chapel on Union III. She held up a manila folder – her values badge – with words she had used to describe herself only days before. Some words provided demographics – white, female, Catholic. Others showed roles or personality traits – mother, independent, passionate.
As she held up the folder, Duda spoke to the rest of the class about what she learned in the Equal Opportunity Leader’s Course.
The values badge is the first assignment students of the EOLC are given on the first day of the course and the last activity they revisit after completing the final exam.
“I’ve been subjected to sexism and stereotypes my whole entire career,” said Duda, the Joint Visitors Bureau protocol noncommissioned officer for the Combined Joint Force Land Component Command – Operation Inherent Resolve. Before completing EOLC, she didn’t realize what she had been subjected to.
Now armed with more knowledge, she said she wouldn’t stand for it anymore.
Duda was one of ten people who participated in the five-day EOLC in Baghdad from April 18th-22nd.
The course aims to help people better understand themselves and others. It is broken down into three phases.
“The first phase is really the socialization process and having an understanding of where people come from,” said Sgt. 1st Class Joseph Jackel, the equal opportunity advisor for CJFLCC-OIR and the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault).
The second phase focuses on discrimination and knowing what the six bases of discrimination are underneath the EO program, Jackel said. Those bases are race, color, national origin, religion, sex and sexual orientation. The last phase is teaches Soldiers how to be an Equal Opportunity Leader.
Graduates of the class are responsible for being the eyes and ears for their commander and to keep the program running, Jackel said. They will ensure that policy letters are written, signed and posted, training is conducted, command climate surveys are done, and they will resolve issues informally.
Duda got to work quickly.
Within days of completing the course, Duda already implemented the techniques she learned with her own Soldier by mentoring and encouraging her to be an enforcer against discrimination, she said.
“You can look at yourself a certain way,” said Duda. “But you don’t open up until someone asks you about it, and you may be surprised about who can relate to you.”
Jackel plans to teach four more EOLC classes during the 101st Air Assault Division’s deployment.