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NEWS | Feb. 23, 2022

MEDCoE appoints first STRIDE peer advocates

By Tish Williamson, MEDCoE Communications Director U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

The U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, has implemented a new strategic program to help eradicate harmful behaviors that erode Army values within the organization and to further the Army’s people first initiative.

The program is called “STRIDE,” an acronym for systemic respect, tolerance, resilience, inclusion, dignity and equity. The initiative was kicked off in a ceremony Feb. 15 adjacent to the MEDCoE headquarters at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, hosted by the 32nd Medical Brigade command team of Col. Marc Welde and Command Sgt. Maj. Gilberto Colon.

Also in attendance were the MEDCoE Command Team, Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster and Cmd. Sgt. Maj. Clark Charpentier, along with nearly 100 other MEDCoE Soldiers and leaders.

Cpt. Chad Beach, Officer in Charge, MEDCoE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Center, who was instrumental in organizing the program, narrated the event. Beach explained that STRIDE was created in the 32nd Medical Brigade to improve prevention and response efforts regarding suicide prevention, sexual harassment/assault and racism/extremism by bolstering bystander intervention. He believes peer advocates will serve as enablers towards eradication of these harmful behaviors by leveraging Soldiers; the Army’s greatest resource.

“We have other preexisting and embedded assets,” Beach said, “however, authorizing the wear of STRIDE tabs will help STRIDE peer advocates be more visible and accessible to our dynamic population of transitional Soldiers,” Beach said.

During the ceremony, Welde and Colon signed a formal STRIDE proclamation and presented the first six Soldier volunteers, representing each of the three battalions with Advanced Individual Training Soldiers assigned to the 32nd Medical Brigade, with a STRIDE tab to wear prominently on their uniforms.

“Our STRIDE Peer Advocates will take a pledge to model the Army Values and serve as a critical enabler and link to our existing Army programs,” Welde said.

STRIDE Peer Advocates will also be coached in the effective integration and utilization of Army resources like the Equal Opportunity Leaders (EOL), Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) Coordinators, Victim Advocates (VA), or Chaplains.

Welde said he modeled the STRIDE program after a similar Training and Doctrine Command program called Soldiers Against Sexual Harassment, or SASH, when he met Spc. Ruben Prieto, a recent 42A Human Resources Specialist AIT graduate and former SASH Soldier Advocate.

“I noticed his distinctive teal SASH tab and took the opportunity to talk to him about the program,” Welde said. He was most impressed by how Prieto described the program, his role and how his peers had responded to him. “He was extremely passionate about his impact on unit readiness.

Welde explained that, while the SASH and STRIDE programs are two different initiatives with slightly different missions, their foundations are the same.

“They’re both aimed at peer advocacy to stop harmful and corrosive behaviors in our formations while improving readiness,” Welde said.

Beach envisions STRIDE as a way to better empower MEDCoE’s E4s and below, the most susceptible group to external influences.

“STRIDE relies heavily on Soldier volunteers that pledge to serve as active bystanders within their respective formations,” Beach explained, “intervening whenever they witness or overhear situations that are inconsistent with Army values and the foundation ideal that all individuals are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect.”

In closing remarks for the ceremony, Lemaster offered his deepest thanks to the first STRIDE volunteers for helping the 32nd Medical Brigade and the MEDCoE take the important step to better support their people. He encouraged leaders at all levels to continue to foster a culture of systemic respect throughout the command, no matter how long they are assigned to the unit.

“Then when we depart, and our replacements come, it is already hardwired into the institution: we treat each other with dignity and respect, and we get after all of the items that STRIDE stands for,” LeMaster explained.

The 32nd Medical Brigade is the MEDCoE’s sole training brigade, the largest in TRADOC, and is the medical generating force for the Army. AIT is responsible for furthering the Soldiering process for Soldiers arriving from Basic Combat Training prior to graduation and departure to their first operational unit.