May 1, 2014, NORFOLK, Va (NNS) – It ranges across a broad spectrum, from initiation rituals such as tacking on crows or field insignias, to off-color jokes about sexism and racism, all the way to outright abuse or assault.
The offenders wear all types of collar devices; senior enlisted marching junior service members down a pier, forcing them to carry bags of human waste, or seamen taping their peers to chairs or forcing them down chutes.
These types of actions and attitudes create physically and psychologically hostile climates that can lead to criminal acts, and victims may feel as though they have nowhere to turn for help. It’s a problem the Navy is working hard to fix.
“We’re moving our focus to what we call the left side of the continuum of harm,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, the Director of the Navy 21st Century Sailor Office. “We’re looking at some of the underlying behaviors, such as sexism, sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination, that if condoned or tolerated and not addressed, could embolden someone to move across the spectrum to the right side . . . which turns into a criminal act.”
Each year, Command Climate Specialists (CCS), formerly known as Equal Opportunity Advisors, meet at the Annual Military Equal Opportunity (MEO) Training Summit to discuss ways of improving command climate and reducing damaging behaviors and attitudes. This year’s MEO Training Summit was held in April in Norfolk, Va.
“It’s an opportunity to bring together as many of the CCSs and CMEOs that are currently serving in their respective roles around the world, together in one forum to put out all the new updates, to train, and to allow them to build a network amongst themselves,” said Buck.
Command Climate Specialists and Command-Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) program managers are experienced Sailors who have taken on the task of determining the climate of each command, providing training on equal opportunity issues, and ensuring that all formal complaints and command issues are effectively addressed. The main way that CCSs and CMEOS determine a command’s climate is through annual surveys.
The Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI) provides annual Organizational Climate Surveys (DEOCS) that allow all Sailors to provide feedback on command issues.
“A lot of times, Sailors in general do not want to go directly to an individual to voice their problem,” said Senior Chief Yeoman George Wooten, a Command Climate Specialist at Naval Service Training Command. Many command issues are brought to the surface in command climate surveys and that’s when the concerns are addressed.
This year’s summit announced changes to the DEOCS and how they are processed. Sailors’ voices will be heard louder than ever before.
“Congress, through the National Defense Authorization Act, mandated enhanced commander accountability on command climate assessments,” said George Bradshaw, the director of Navy Sexual Harassment Prevention and Equal Opportunity Office.
DEOCS have previously only reached the commander of that particular command. Now, said Bradshaw, the DEOCS will be sent to the regional commanders (ISICS), ensuring that each commander is held accountable for any complaints from his or her command. The results of the survey are also reported on the commander’s fitness report.
“I think our [Sailors] will continue to see more engaged leadership, more informed leadership, and I think they’re going to continue to feel more and more comfortable that they’re working for a company, the U.S. Navy . . .where they feel as though they’re treated fairly and that they’re feeling like they’re treated with dignity and respect,” said Buck.