Honoring the nation’s diversity: Fort Meade’s special observances promote pride and esprit de corps

On Wednesday, the Fort Meade garrison will recognize the contributions and achievements of African-Americans with the observance of National Black History Month.

The annual event will be hosted by both the garrison and the Defense Media Activity at Club Meade.

Dr. Betty Moseley-Brown, associate director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Center for Women, is the guest speaker.

Sgt. 1st Class Jermaine Ferguson, the installation’s Equal Opportunity senior adviser, said the goal of special observances like Black History Month and Women’s History Month is to “enhance cross-cultural and cross-gender awareness and promote harmony, pride, teamwork and esprit de corps among military members, their families and the civilian workforce.”

Army Command Policy (Army Regulation 600-20) requires the formal observance of the contributions of different cultures and women.

Special observances are held annually in support of joint congressional resolutions and presidential proclamations that pay tribute to the achievements of all groups that comprise American society, Ferguson said.

EO specialists like Ferguson advise commanders — brigade level and higher — on the Army’s Equal Opportunity program, its policies, procedures and issues that affect the EO climate of a unit. They also provide assistance and guidance to commanders, first sergeants, supervisors, military civilian employees and Soldiers in subordinate units where no EOA is assigned.

One of his most important duties, Ferguson said, is to assist the garrison and hosting unit in organizing a diversity event. Planning usually begins 60 to 90 days before the observance.

“Conducting a quality, special observance requires a dedicated team effort,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson enlists the help of volunteers from the hosting unit. They work together to identify and secure a guest speaker, cultural entertainment and catering, if a food sampling will be provided.

To determine the cost and ensure funding, Ferguson consults with the Military District of Washington Equal Opportunity Program manager at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C.

A lot of behind-the-scenes work must also be done. The team must coordinate audio-visual support, lighting, and printing of the event flyer, program and recognition certificates for the guest speaker, and cultural entertainers.

The team must also identify and secure a chaplain to give the invocation, a singer for the national anthem and coordinate the food sampling menu with the caterer, if it is not provided by Club Meade.

Ferguson develops the publicity plan for the event and works with the Fort Meade Public Affairs Office to ensure coverage in Soundoff! and on Meade TV.

On the day of the event, the team sets up the venue, which can include diversity exhibits and displays, and identifies escorts and ushers for garrison leaders who attend the event.

The focus on special observances, Ferguson said, “should be on encouraging interaction, not just recognition” of different cultures or gender-specific achievements.

“They are conducted to increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding.”

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