Equal Opportunity NCO gives Meade cultural exposure

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Wilma L. Vaught discusses women in the military with Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Chambers in 2015. (File photo by Phil Grout)

Another Fort Meade special cultural event, another opportunity for Sgt. 1st Class Derrick Chambers to work his magic.

As Fort Meade’s senior equal opportunity representative and manager, Chambers is center mass for ensuring official, national commemoration periods are part of the world in which military members and government civilians are exposed to.

A school-trained personnel noncommissioned officer, Chambers came to Fort Meade after completing in 2015 the Equal Opportunity Advisor’s Course at the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Presidio of Monterey, Calif.

“I learned from a documented perspective what I already had some insight — that is, the socialization process or the absence of it across cultural and ethnic lines can be a barrier to effective organizational operations,” said the 18-year Army veteran from Burlington, N.C.

Chambers has served at a number of levels within the Army including combat units stateside and overseas. He recently served as the J-1 NCOIC at the George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany.

But his assignment to Fort Meade is his first taste of garrison operations.

“I had a pretty narrow view coming into Fort Meade operations, but my aperture was widened considerably very early,” Chambers said. “It was my first time seeing how garrison operations touch everyone in the community —inside and outside the gate.

“This assignment has brought many challenges that have made it a joy to work through as I co-served alongside Garrison Equal Employment Opportunity Office members: Ms. Elliot-Buettner, Mr. Flores, Ms. Yuen, and recently retired Ms. Vandyke. They are simply the best!

“I learned of the significant impact a military community of more than 56,000 people can have on the economics and culture of the surrounding community — all the more reason why the military community should be well versed in the many cultures that make up America.”

That’s a major part of Chambers’ job — lining up subject-matter experts for events ranging from Hispanic Heritage Month and Native-American Heritage Month to Veterans Day with the intent to provide service members, their families and federal civilians with exposure to and appreciation for those groups.

“One of the joys of conducting ethnic and special observances has been the great opportunity to involve school kids,” Chambers said.

“The MacArthur Middle School Honors Combined and all-girls chorus Dolce’ Donna, along with the MLK essay contests with Pershing Elementary fourth- and fifth-graders, and the culmination of having Largo High School’s Grammy-nominated Performing Arts Department participate in a number of these events is extremely satisfying.”

Chambers said that the community’s awareness of cultural diversity on post continues to grow.

“In my two years’ here, I’ve seen real change in how we, as a community, embrace a deeper understanding of the ethnic variety that is routinely the core of our Army — what richness that understanding can add to military readiness and preparedness,” he said.”

Chambers is grateful to the garrison command for its continued support.

“I’m honored and thankful to the Fort Meade command leadership for their trust and confidence in me to get the job done,” he said. “I’m blessed for this opportunity to contribute to the Fort Meade community in this way.”

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