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NEWS | April 10, 2024

Integrated Resilience Operations (IRO): Pillars of mental, spiritual, physical, and social resilience

By Mr. Joseph Althoff, Integrated Primary Prevention Manager D.C. National Guard

WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia National Guard's Integrated Resilience Operations (IRO) program equips the organization with the knowledge, skills, tools and resources required to continually assess and adjust to our environment. We also work with the helping agencies such as Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR), Military Equal Opportunity/Equal Employment Opportunity (MEO/EEO), Family Programs, Airman & Family Readiness, Suicide Prevention, Drug Demand Reduction (DDR), Chaplains, and behavioral health to collect and analyze data.

Data is also collected from the Inspector General, Emergency Operations Command (EOC), the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJA), and Recruiting and Retention just to name a few. We collaborate with host installation resources such as Joint Base Andrews, Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, and Fort Belvoir and those military installations close by to advocate for services for our National Guard members.

Annually, we administer the Defense Organizational Climate Survey (DEOCS) assessment and build mitigation plans for unit commanders and senior leaders of the D.C. National Guard geared toward identifying where we succeed and where we have challenges.  We work with leaders at all levels to help them execute these recommendations with the overall intent of improving the environment of the DC National Guard for all Airmen, Soldiers, and Civilians. 

Additionally, we publicize positive messages derived from the DEOCS in our Social Norms campaigns. Our posters and social media postings express the positive aspect of our climate and the values we believe in as a D.C. National Guard family. If you see our team out and about, please don’t hesitate to say hello. Your IRO team members are:

Mr. Joseph Althoff: Integrated Primary Prevention Manager
Mr. Robert Besier: Attorney Advisor
Mr. Karlus Madison: DCARNG Prevention Analyst
Ms. Juliann Bryant: DCANG Prevention Analyst
Mr. Jason Dickson: DCANG Prevention Coordinator

Learn more about our efforts and formation below:

1. There's a lot of discussion on resilience and wellness, what was the catalyst for creating the IRO?

At the direction of President Joe Biden, on February 26, 2021, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin established the 90-Day Independent Review Commission (IRC) on Sexual Assault in the Military. The Commission was charged with conducting “an independent, impartial assessment” of the military’s current treatment of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The IRC officially began its review on March 24, 2021.

In June 2021, the IRC presented Secretary Austin with its report and recommendations addressing four broad areas: accountability, prevention, climate and culture, and support and care of victims. These four lines of effort are equally important—and therefore interdependent—in stopping sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.

The IRC developed more than 80 recommendations. One of these recommendations was to establish a dedicated primary prevention workforce that was highly trained, credentialled, and used data plus evidence-based research to advise commanders at all levels on activities to reduce the risk of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

The D.C. National Guard established the force structure of the prevention workforce in early 2023. The workforce was fully in place by the end of the year. In addition, the prevention workforce expanded the scope of the original intent of sexual harassment and assault to the overall wellness and resilience of the member through a community-level prevention approach. This includes the four pillars of resilience: Mental, spiritual, physical, and social. In this mission, the Integrated Resilience Operations (IRO) office was born.

2. How were the five IRO team members strategically selected?

The IRC recommendations state the prevention workforce need to have data analysis, research, strategic and operational policy-writing, and community-level program implementation skillsets in order to operate effectively as advisors to commanders and prevention stakeholders. The five positions fill these roles and responsibilities. Each member of the team was strategically selected and bring years of experience in various levels of prevention and intervention across the private sector, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and National Guard to the fight in order to produce the best recommendations for our D.C. National Guard leaders and stakeholders.

3. You advocate for services for Soldiers and Airmen. What do you believe is a top challenge current D.C. National Guard members face?

The number one challenge we see with members relate to their status. The services members are eligible for can change drastically depending on the Title 10 or Title 32 statuses. If military services are limited, then community services become significant contributors to the member. Community services can vary with each location of the member. National organizations such as MilitaryOne Source, Veterans Affairs, and other non-profit military-oriented helping agencies can fill the gap. In addition, the civilian job members hold can offer benefits with their health insurance or worksite wellness programs.

4. How is data collected to address these gaps?

We collect data through several methods and sources. Some of the more familiar sources include the Defense Equal Opportunity Climate Survey (DEOCS) and the Unit Risk Assessment (URI). Others include non-identifiable incident data from Commanders Critical Incident Report (CCIR) and Significant Incident Reports (SIR), Inspector General inquiries, JAG incidents, and EO/SAPR trends. We also incorporate utilization data from the DCNG helping agencies such as Family Programs, Airman and Family Readiness, the Chaplain corps, behavioral health as well as readiness data from medical operations and retention activities. If applicable, we will use local community, state/district, and national trend data to help define challenges and opportunities for our members spread out across the United States.

5. What makes the D.C. National Guard unique?

The D.C. National Guard is a special organization with unique features. We capitalize on the number of personnel to offer support to commanders at all levels. Larger states generally have challenges offering specific tactical support below the Battalion or group level. We pride ourselves on the capacity to offer our services down to the company and squadron level, helping those commanders create safe and prosperous environments for their members based on their unique missions.

6. How can commanders and SELs support IRO's efforts? How important is leadership engagement?

Leadership engagement at all levels is the success of their program. IRO is there every step of the way to assist in identifying and developing strategies to bring out the best in each service member and help maximize unit readiness. One of our key elements of success is messaging and we emphasize this with each mitigation plan we develop for a unit. Messaging works best with engaged leaders, thus leadership engagement feeds messaging. You cannot have one without the other. We look forward to working with all unit commanders over the next several years to accentuate the greatness of what the D.C. National Guard is while we accept the opportunity to improve the areas that can be challenging for our members.

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