Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe, senior commander, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, addresses leadership from across the installation at the inaugural Ironclad Summit. Fort Bliss hosted the Ironclad Summit to better strengthen the foundation for mutual respect, safety and cohesive teams among its Soldiers, Civilians, and Families. Operation Ironclad is the action-based approach of Fort Bliss toward eliminating sexual assault and sexual harassment, suicide, and extremism and racism in the ranks. For Bernabe, the summit and its related initiatives are crucial in spreading the word that Fort Bliss is a non-permissive environment when dealing with such unacceptable behaviors. The top priority for Fort Bliss leaders is creating an environment non-permissive of these destructive behaviors. | U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brown-Bell

Fort Bliss’ Ironclad Summit lays groundwork to better Soldier lives

FORT BLISS – Past performance doesn’t guarantee future success. This is why command teams from across Fort Bliss gathered Thursday, March 11 to address dangerous behaviors that leave lasting damage if left unchecked.

The Ironclad Summit and corresponding “Operation Ironclad” campaign focus attention on behavior that degrades readiness, namely sexual assault and sexual harassment, suicide, and extremism and racism. Fort Bliss has been addressing these issues since the creation of a task force in December, aimed specifically at combating these corrosives and improving the lives of its Soldiers.

While it’s certainly true that these issues helped shape the events of the summit, senior leaders quickly pointed out the day’s lessons will last long into the future.

“We must inspire leaders to engage in difficult conversations. We must confront those who denigrate and/or disrespect our people. We must look at ourselves and ask, ‘Am I doing enough? Am I being a mentor?’ If the answer is no, then we’ve got work to do,” said Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe, the senior commander of 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss.

The Honorable John Whitley, Acting Secretary of the Army, joined Bernabe as one of the keynote speakers for the event. Leaders across Fort Bliss worked tirelessly to provide an interactive, educational experience completely unlike previous training in these areas.

Several interactive booths and group discussions featured role players, lending a greater sense of realism to dangerous and destructive real-world situations in which Soldiers could find themselves. In addition, attendees participated in three keynote addresses by Mike Domitrz from the Center for Respect and Maj. Gen. Tammy Smith, Military Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Manpower and Reserve Affairs) and Director, Army Quality of Life. Domitrz’s presentations showcased the trauma involved when unwelcomed attention and pressure is forced upon an unwilling person, as well as how to transform units, while Smith addressed building increased inclusion across our formations.

“These are important lessons that, unfortunately, we do not address enough,” said Sgt. 1st Class Amelia Crouchet, senior sexual assault response coordinator, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss. Crouchet and the entire Fort Bliss sexual assault prevention team led the majority of the coordination for the Ironclad Summit, along with key leaders across the 1st Armored Division Artillery Brigade.

“I just hope people here today can share with friends and fellow soldiers that these issues are all too real here at Fort Bliss, and that people’s lives are at stake. Hopefully today will really make a difference,” she said.

The conclusion of the Ironclad Summit provided all in attendance the opportunity to voice their concerns, as well as their suggestions for improving Soldier, Civilian, and Family quality of life across the installation. A panel discussion featuring leaders from all Fort Bliss units insisted leaders be more involved in their Soldiers’ lives. Participants of the Ironclad Summit were provided a pocket-sized card outlining the expected commitment of every Fort Bliss Soldier in taking action against sexual assault and sexual harassment.

“It is not enough to say the words, we must act. And we must act now,” said Bernabe in his final call to action. “You all received a card when you walked in; on that card, I want you to write concrete ways in which you can combat sexual assault and harassment. Not lofty ideas, but real actions you can take. And then I need you to do them.”

The Ironclad Summit was merely the beginning for Fort Bliss; Operation Ironclad is an ongoing initiative that will continue to focus on the destructive behaviors and actions eroding teams and confidence in leadership. Together, we can end the devastation caused by sexual assault, sexual harassment, suicide, extremism and racism.

Bernabe urges all personnel with suggestions for improving Fort Bliss systems to contact him directly via his Commanding General hotline at 915-744-2010. Ideas can also be sent from the Fort Bliss website.

Author:  Staff Sgt. Nicholas Brown-Bell  – 1st Armored Division