Author’s Note: ROCKS, Inc. celebrates the spirit of black history throughout the year with a mentorship program started by black officers to help other black officers with their experience. The program is now all-inclusive and offers the best of “helping yourself by helping others”.
Have you ever thought “I wish I knew then what I know now”?
A newly formed local group from ROCKS, Inc. is working to put a stop to that thinking. The organization was formed to provide mentorship, professional development, and social interaction to strengthen the officer corps.
“Someone now knows what you don’t know,” said Capt. Kiasha Hamilton, S4 Assistant, 75th Field Artillery Brigade and president of the local chapter of ROCKS, Inc. “Let’s find the people who have the information we have. need and pass that information on to the next person who needs it. Some people want to lead, while others need to be led. Providing that environment here at Fort Sill where both goals can be achieved was important to me. .
Hamilton said a two-way mentoring environment is not a new concept, but allowing it to flourish with the ROCKS, Inc. chapter will allow for more well-rounded officers and senior civilians at Fort Sill.
“I just put myself in the mindset to do it; I can do it, the team has rallied and things have started to flourish,” she said. “I wanted to give others something I was missing and create a community of excellence in field artillery. As leaders, we define how we deal with everyday situations. I identified one area that I personally could have benefited from early on: mentoring.
ROCKS, Inc. is a nonprofit organization comprised of active, reserve, and retired officers and warrant officers of the United States Armed Forces. Included in this composition are ROTC and Military Academy cadets and DoD GS-12 and above civilian counterparts. ROCKS also offers cadet scholarships and “Leadership Outreach,” which provides the opportunity for teams of ROCKS members to visit historically black colleges and universities to guide the professional career development of ROTC students.
ROCKS, Inc. was officially founded in 1974, but was initially launched in the mid-1960s as informal meetings of black Army officers assigned to the Command and General Staff College. Currently, 18 Army installations have local chapters and five installations – including Fort Sill – have their own nationwide interest group.
Hamilton said mentorship never ends.
“As a black field artillery officer, I am a leader; and I represent the next generation of field artillery leaders. I am also always willing to mentor, be mentored, or enable networking between mentors and mentees. The wonderful part of ROCKS is that the organization is committed to strengthening the officer corps of the Army and I am happy to be a part of it. There are officers, seniors, peers and subordinates who come to me for mentorship and those I contact for ongoing mentorship both within the group and individually,” Hamilton said.
According to Hamilton, black officers have historically had less access to mentorship than their contemporaries.
“We change it to Fort Sill; we are essentially an extension of the command team and we are building a community of excellence. We provide mentorship and camaraderie to permanent and temporary staff,” she said. “If anyone has problems with artillery or fire support, we have experts on the team. If anyone wants to know what to do in Fort Sill, we have those answers too. We will use timing, strategic alignment and dedication to ensure we are there for anyone who needs mentorship.
The group meets twice a month, formally and informally. They meet occasionally three to four times a month if there are extracurricular activities or initiatives during that month.
“Formal meetings are held on the job in service uniform. This allows us to be able to identify rank, name and unit just by seeing ourselves in uniform,” she said “Formal meetings are very structured and typically last an hour. We have defined topics and guest speakers for these meetings. Formal meetings allow for an in-garrison learning environment and strengthen the bonds of individuals in uniform. It also allows FLWs to be easily identified for additional conversation and mentorship after the meeting.”
Hamilton said informal meetings were held off-post in appropriate civilian attire, usually at different locations around town.
“Although the informal meetings are less structured, we have a defined topic. This is more dialogue-oriented and allows officers to feel more relaxed, share their experiences and receive or give feedback,” she said. “These meetings should typically last an hour and a half, but they’ve always lasted up to three or four hours because of so much commitment and mentorship.”
The group also has extracurricular activities or initiatives where they come together to build a “community of excellence” by engaging with the community outside of Fort Sill.
“We are also building a ‘community of excellence’ within our group by participating in events such as the Buffalo Black Soldiers History Month 3-Mile Walk/Run; and based on individual interests, we plan group hikes, family days and other outings,” she said.
Upcoming initiatives include blood drives, food drives, mentoring and volunteering with outside organizations.
For more information about ROCKS, Inc., call Hamilton at 504-388-2405.