The Army Equal Opportunity (EO) Policy states that the U.S. Army will provide equal opportunity and fair treatment for military personnel and family members without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, and provide an environment free of unlawful discrimination and offensive behavior.
The Army EO Policy applies both on and off your post and both during and off duty. It applies to work, living, and recreational environments both on and off the base and it requires that soldiers will not be accessed, classified, trained, assigned, promoted, or otherwise managed based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin.
There is an exception, however, in the assignment and utilization of female soldiers, outlined in the Army Policy for the Assignment of Female Soldiers.
It can be tricky to understand when does the Army EO Policy apply and, to be honest, there’s no clear answer. In general, discrimination can be overt or hidden, direct or indirect, and intentional or unintentional. But with proper education and clear respect for diversity, the Army has made strides toward becoming more inclusive with this policy.
Examples of Army EO Policy Application
In the field, Army leaders are trained to deal with potential obstructions to the Army EO Policy. With thorough education about cultural barriers and common forms of discrimination, there are some examples that come up of when the Army EO Policy applies.
Personal racist and sexist behaviors include:
- Paternalism: behavior taking a “fatherly” tone
- Speaking for
- Testimonials: AKA “I’m not racist. I have friends that are black.”
- Ethnic, racist, or sexist jokes
- Frequent interruptions
- Stereotypical language
- Ignoring titles and ranks
- Denying opportunities
- Dubious supervision: exploiting the transgressions of a minority group when it may be a problem of the majority group as well
When these kinds of behaviors happen within an Army command, leadership is empowered to handle these situations and deter it from continuing with formal actions taken to ensure harmony between different groups of people.
As with occurrences that violate the Army EO Policy, like sexual harassment or discrimination based on gender identity, for example, individuals are encouraged to use the chain of command to address grievances.
The chain of command begins with promoting positive programs that enhance unit cohesion, advances to communication with the proper EO personnel, and eventually to corrective action to prevent discriminatory practices to resolve any issues.
The Army EO Policy is not a simple one but it’s certainly there for a reason – to protect minority groups and create a more harmonious and functional military operation.