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News | Feb. 25, 2022

Chicago MEPS Personnel Strengthen Communication Skills During Cares Day

By Derrik Noack USMEPCOM

The past two years have been like a triathlon for MEPS personnel. They have sustained uninterrupted operations all while enduring through challenges brought on by the pandemic, transitioning to various new systems and taking leaps toward modernization. In recognition of their fortitude, a non-processing day was created for employees to recharge.

MEPS were given a CARES Day to Connect, Appreciate, Reset, Educate and Strengthen. The process to obtain a non-processing day was not easy, but USMEPCOM Commander, Col. Megan Stallings felt it was important to recognize the struggles endured throughout the past couple of years. 

“All teammates at the MEPS have been running strong, with no break, throughout this pandemic,” said Stallings. “You remained steadfast in accomplishing our mission, showing up in person while most of the world stayed home. The resiliency from individuals and your teams astound me.”

Recognizing that challenges and struggles differ across locations, Stallings gave the opportunity for leaders to create their own agenda for the day. Resiliency workshops, team-building exercises and off-site gatherings were some of the most popular options chosen. 

“One of the benefits of picking our own agenda for the day was being able to take a good look at what we needed and what would benefit the organization,” said Army Capt. Kirby Crites, Springfield MEPS executive officer. “The resiliency training we conducted earlier in the day allowed us to put things in perspective and had a lot of active participation using scenarios relating to things we experience at MEPS. Bowling was a great way to celebrate each other’s achievements and build a greater appreciation for what people can bring to the overall team, both in work and play.”

MEPS personnel are normally concentrated into medical, processing and testing sections. CARES Day proved to be beneficial in opening the doors of communication across those sections and strengthening teams overall. 

“Sections in MEPS typically function independently,” said U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Brian Gutierrez, Chicago MEPS senior enlisted advisor. “Groups were put together to make a collage of each section and open up communication. As we modernize and the environment changes, we come across problems that make us think outside the box and communicate. Everyone sees things differently. Opening those lines of communication allows everyone to voice their opinion and helps us all.”

Setbacks and adverse events can happen while working through a pandemic. Because our mission can never stop, maintaining resiliency is crucial to our success. MEPS leadership recognizes the benefits of non-processing days in recharging and building resiliency. 

“The staff really do appreciate events that reinforce de-escalation from the heightened tempo in our line of work,” said U.S. Navy Lt.j.g. Marco Pineda, Fort Lee MEPS operations officer. “Whether it is re-arranging an office space to better fit the workforce or getting together for extra modernization training, days without applicants can be simply productive yet mentally stabilizing for our staff.”

Feedback from the MEPS has been overwhelmingly positive following their chosen CARES Day activities. Leadership at USMEPCOM hope to make the day an annual event. 

“The morale following CARES Day was high,” said Crites. “Staff members liked the opportunity they got to reset and talk to people from other sections. CARES Day came at a great time, and provided the organization an opportunity to connect and appreciate before we got cracking in the new quarter.”