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Fort Bliss’ new commanding general talks candidly about managing during the pandemic, Army leadership challenges

FORT BLISS, Texas -- The new commanding general at Fort Bliss has had to deal with significant issues in just his first 80 days as the highest ranking U.S. Army soldier on post.

“Certainly I have a responsibility to protect our force here and to make sure we preserve our readiness despite the pandemic, but the other part of the equation is we want to be great neighbors and make sure everything that we do here is supporting what the leaders in El Paso are doing,” Maj. Gen. Sean Bernabe said.

The commanding general has put a system in place at Fort Bliss that he believes has protected his soldiers and those who come onto the Army post.

“What we saw is that our system worked. We recently had some soldiers return from overseas.  As it turned out there were some soldiers in that group that were symptomatic and eventually tested positive for Covid," he explained. "What we saw is that the system we put in place to identify that and to very rapidly isolate, and for those who were in close contact we put them in an exposure-based quarantine. Those systems worked.”

In the wake of the commanding general at Texas' Fort Hood being relieved of his duties amid questions about the leadership climate there, Bernabe believes he can take notes from what went wrong and try new methods of training his soldiers.

“The assessment across the Army was that we have been so busy for the last several years that training on a very tight timeline: deploying units overseas for a variety of missions, bringing them back from overseas and very rapidly resetting them for the next term. And in that churn, in that very high operating tempo, perhaps we forgot what's most important: People,” Bernabe indicated.

He said all normal activities for soldiers, with the exception of essential services, have been stopped for new training that he believes will prevent certain poor behaviors from taking place.

“We’ve directed our soldiers to write an essay.  An essay on 'where did I come from, where did I grow up?' And the idea is not to grade them on their writing skills, the idea is to start a conversation with their leaders about who they are,” the major general explained.

“We really need to know who they are and where they come from. What makes them tick, what's important to them and therefore how do we help them achieve their goals?  Or, where do we need to put leader energy,” Bernabe concluded.

El Paso / News / Video

Wil Herren

Wil Herren is an ABC-7 reporter who covers both news and sports.

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