Does Diversity Make the Air Force Stronger?
COL Rice, Adam. Commander VTANG 158th Mission Support
A little over three years ago, I sat before a Colonel promotion board and one of the questions was, “Does diversity make us stronger?” I uttered the typical reply “That’s a great question” as I took a few moments to consider my response. I knew the answer the board wanted to hear was yes, but I was struggling to find the points I wanted to make and articulate an answer. This article is my attempt to better answer the question.
If I could rephrase the question, I would ask “As a profession of arms, is diversity in and of itself a strength for our military?” One definition of the opposite of diversity is uniformity. Uniformity in the military, especially from a Drill Instructor’s standpoint is a definite strength. Military personnel and units must comply with uniform standards of conduct, ethics, physical fitness, dress and appearance, and countless technical orders, regulations and instructions. At Basic Military Training, the intent is to break down all individuals to a common standard, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background to become a warrior and embrace a service’s code of conduct and core values. Airmen must be unified in understanding each and everyone’s role in the mission in order to project air power to defend our constitution from enemies foreign and domestic. Our strength really comes from taking a diverse group of people America and other countries have to offer and assimilating them into our military culture, customs and courtesies and into cohesive units.
But what about diversity and intelligence? In a 2014 article in Scientific American, titled “How Diversity Makes us Smarter,” it was found that people work harder in diverse environments, both cognitively and socially. Being with others similar to us leads to thinking that we all hold the same information and share the same perspective, which actually hinders creativity and innovation. Work groups with racial diversity significantly outperformed racially homogeneous groups. Diverse juries exchanged more information and made fewer errors remembering relevant information.
Deliberate Development of our Airmen is one of our Wing Commander’s top three priorities, because an educated airman is a more lethal airman. Professional Military Education is a hallmark of our military professionalism and it is what sets our commissioned and non-commissioned officers apart from other countries’ military forces. So if diversity makes our airmen smarter and therefore more lethal, the argument can be made that diversity, coupled with assimilation, does make the Air Force stronger.
There is no doubt in my mind that we need to recruit a diverse population of Vermonters in the Air National Guard so that our rolls are reflective of our state population. We can and should recruit a diverse group of citizen airmen in our State National Guard, and work to include them in our core values and code of conduct as Green Mountain Boys.
Notes from the EO Officer
CPT Detweiler, Scott
So these will be some big shoes to fill! I am Captain Scott Detweiler and I have the honor and daunting task of serving as your State Equal Employment Manager / Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Director following Chief Doris Sumner's retirement in April. If you don't know me, I have worked in the Sexual Assault Prevention & Response Program here since 2014. Up until this year I was a Field Artillery Officer but have recently branch transferred to the Adjutant General Corps and earned by Public Affairs Functional Area last year. Prior to full time work with the Vermont National Guard I taught special education in Baltimore City Public High Schools.
So what can you expect from the EO and Diversity programs? Well, I will be working hard with the Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs) to build off of the award winning programs Chief Sumner established. We plan on re-launching the Lean In sessions on a monthly basis beginning in October, moving locations and times around the state to increase accessibility for those not close to Camp Johnson and for M-Day personnel. Our SEPMs will work to provide you with additional awareness events throughout the year as well.
The big news is the Military Women's Workshop BG Knight will host on 02 November 2019. We are still working out the details, including location, but we know it will provide a great mix of professional development as well as directed problem solving / brainstorming and networking -- to include a key note address from MG Martha Rainville and a facilitated discussion from civilian consultants from Vermont's Business Peer Exchange. This will be a great opportunity to meet or reestablish relationships with women who have been successful in the VTNG and to personally contribute to improving our organization. Looking forward to seeing you there!
- Contact Info:
- State Equal Employment Manager
- Desk: 802-338-3148
- Cell: 802-324-5584
Family Support: Air
1st LT Kittredge, Jason. SARC VTANG 158th Fighter Wing
During Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month (SAAPM) in April of 2018, Defense Secretary Mattis released to the force the “Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention” memo. It is appropriate to open with an excerpt from that memo -- “Preventing sexual assault is our moral duty. By its nature, sexual assault is one of the most destructive factors in building a mission-focused military. Self-discipline, alert Non Commissioned Officers (NCOs ), and attuned chains of command are essential if we are to set standards that strengthen our military readiness to fight well and increase our ability to recruit and retain the finest all-volunteer force this world has ever known.”
As members of the Vermont Air National Guard complete the third year of the Green Dot Violence Prevention Strategy, Green Dot Coordinators and Implementers have received positive feedback from Airmen at all ranks. It is the opinion of many within our organization that this evidence-based practice has empowered members to take action against strengthening our standards in order to prevent sexual assault. Success of this training over the past three years can be contributed to: leadership support, member engagement and teamwork. A special thanks to those who volunteered to be 2018 Green Dot Implementers and ensured the effectiveness of this training: Major Kearns (229COS), MSgt Johnson (158CES) and MSgt Julow (158FW/IG).
As we continue to collect data to determine the effectiveness of our training efforts for both Sexual Assault Prevention and Response and Suicide Prevention, we ask that anyone interested in supporting the 2019 prevention efforts as an Implementer to reach out directly to leadership or the 2019 Prevention Coordinators (1st Lt Treftz and 1st Lt Kittredge). All Airmen should be inspired to take action and impact change -- be Direct, Delegate or Distract! As we prepare for the new opportunities that come with our new mission, don’t shy away from the decision to “choose the harder right over the easier wrong (Mattis Memo, “Discipline & Lethality”, dated 13 August 2018).”
VTANG Equal Opportunity: Our Mission is Your Misson
2nd LT Webster, Molly. VTANG EO Officer, 158th Fighter Wing
This spring, I attended the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute at Patrick AFB, FL. The goal was to take Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines and turn them into war-fighting resources. You may be wondering what EO has to do with war-fighting, and why I would equate what is often perceived as a soft discipline with our battlefield warriors. Well, I didn’t join Equal Opportunity to sit around and drink coffee over a talk about feelings (although this is a surprisingly rewarding aspect of the job). The battle we are fighting is cohesion. It is recognized as a war tactic by many adversarial organizations, leveraged to deteriorate the cohesion of an enemy unit in order to cripple their ability to fight in synchronicity. We build cohesion in our units from the special operations units in the hot zone to our stateside Airmen supporting the mission through traditionally non-combat roles. We can see the impact of all around us when inappropriate interactions or clashing values cause conflict in our units. Maybe they aren’t as obvious, and you simply see a unit with broken morale or distanced from each other, but these take a toll on our mission effectiveness.
In order to overcome this divide, EO specialists are trained with specific skill-sets such as team building, resolution management and mediation certification. Many think of filing complaints when they think Equal Opportunity, or maybe affirmative action programs; however, the majority of what we actually do in the Air National Guard is working as a subject matter expert for commanders to execute Defense Equal Opportunity Climate Surveys (DEOCS), and design mitigating actions to improve the environment within the unit. If you see things around your unit that doesn't feel right, regardless of whether it falls into the five protected categories (race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, to include sexual harassment), feel free to reach out to us for a listening ear or to help your unit get back on track to be fully mission capable. That’s what we’re here for!
Leadership Evolution: Train-the-Trainer
The Vermont National Guard Joint Diversity Executive Council (VT-JDEC) is hosting a 5-day Diversity & Inclusion training session 19-23 August 2019. The goal is to provide VT National Guard Soldiers, Airmen and Civilians with a certification-based training program that participants will own and can deliver (train-the-trainer). Upon completion of the course, participants will have the skills and knowledge to promote diversity & inclusion in the National Guard.
We are looking for Service members already involved in the delivery of Equal Opportunity, Sexual Assault Prevention & Response, Green Dot, Substance Abuse Prevention, Suicide Prevention, ENGAGE or other similar training. Anyone not full time who is interested should work with their unit to secure funding.
This 5-day course is designed to provide participants with the background knowledge, theories, concepts, training methodologies and techniques to achieve a heightened diversity and inclusion skill-set. Participants will identify leadership skills needed to be successful in a diversified environment.
If you are interested or would like more information, contact Captain Detweiler by email @ firstname.lastname@example.org or by Phone @ (802)338-3148
Women's Equality Day - August 26th
Women’s Equality Day celebrates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution which guarantees all American women the right to vote 100 years ago.
The Amendment changed Federal law and the face of the American electorate forever. Women won legal recognition as equal citizens under the 19th Amendment. While women in some states could already vote before 1920, women in many states—particularly those of color—were still blocked from voting after the initial ratification.
National Hispanic Heritage Month
September 15th - October 15th
During National Hispanic Heritage Month, celebrated from September 15 - October 15, the Department of Defense (DoD) recognizes Hispanic Americans’ contributions to the United States and celebrates their culture and heritage.
Hispanic Americans have an undeniable and proud record of military service, dating back to the Civil War. Whether their origins can be traced to Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, or one of dozens of other Spanish-speaking countries or cultures, they have defended America with unwavering valor and honor.
Today, thousands of Hispanic-American Service members throughout the world are protecting our nation. Just as in generations past, we honor our Hispanic community—military and civilian—for their significant contributions toward protecting the United States and embodying the DoD values that unite us all as one team.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month October 1st - October 31st
Observed each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a nationwide campaign that celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
The observance also emphasizes the importance of guaranteeing that all Americans have access to the services necessary to enable them to work.
As the Nation’s largest employer, the DoD recognizes its critical role in advancing disability awareness in the workplace.
NDEAM is an opportunity to reaffirm the DoD’s commitment to recruit, retain, and advance individuals with disabilities. By EMPOWERING ALL, the Defense Department continues to build an inclusive workforce resulting in total force readiness.
PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES PROGRAM
In our efforts to build the PWD Program, we are seeking to solicit the field for voluntary updates to full-time employee’s health status regarding PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, migraine headaches, chronic pain, etc.. New employees may have chosen not to report a disability or have obtained a disability since becoming a technician. For the purposes of meeting EEOC required 12%/2% persons with disabilities representation, it is important that all employees provide this information. Your response, will be confidential, protected by HIPAA law, and used solely to analyze statistics and trends within the organization.
The Persons with Disabilities Program aims to increase the number of persons with disabilities employed in all positions and grade levels; provide opportunities to persons with disabilities to participate in training, career development, and leadership programs; and educate all employees by raising the level of awareness of persons with disabilities workplace issues and concerns.
Please take a few moments out of your day to assist the Equal Employment Opportunity Office and the Persons with Disabilities Program with this important matter by taking a moment to read the below request.
What we are asking:
Please take 2 minutes to make sure your information is up to date. The form is quick and easy; name, date of birth, social security number, and selection of disability status. We ask that ALL Technician employees complete this form, even if they do not have, or do not wish to disclose a disability.
You can do this either by completing and returning the form (via email, in person, or in a sealed envelope) to me in HRO. Or you can do this by logging into MyBiz and completing it electronically (instructions below). Please note that you can only make one choice. If you have multiple disabilities, select the disability with the greatest impact.
Why are we asking for this?
With our transition to a partial Title 5 workforce comes several new requirements that we must follow in order to be compliant with certain laws, most notably The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law requires each agency in the Federal Government to meet certain criteria surrounding the hiring, placement, and advancement of persons with disabilities to ensure we are fair and consistent employers for all.
The term 'disability' covers a wide spectrum, and I would encourage you to review the attachment to see what is considered a disability. Examples could include an employee with PTSD, depression, anxiety disorder, migraine headaches, chronic pain, etc. I understand there may be an inherent cultural hesitancy to lists one’s disabilities, but this email, and your response, will be confidential, protected by HIPAA law, and used solely to analyze disability statistics and trends within the organization. These are not reported to the military. The reporting of this information to the EEO office is strictly numerical, no names or nature of disabilities are reported.
If you have any questions at all or concerns about confidentiality, or are unsure about a specific disability, please feel free to reach out to Ms. Boutin at 338-3141 or Lauren.J.Boutin2.email@example.com.
Thank you very much for your participation in this important matter.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR COMPLETING THE SELF-IDENTIFICATION OF DISABILITY FORM ON MYBIZ:
- On your home page, under 'Detail Pages', click on the purple 'Personal' square.
- This will bring up your personal page and you can click the 'Disability' link which will show a list of disabilities.
- Choose your disability from the list, then click on the ‘Update’ link. You then should see your current disability status.
National American Indian Heritage Month
November 1st - November 29th
November is National American Indian Heritage Month, honoring American Indians and Alaska Natives.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) explains, when referring to American Indian or Alaska Native persons, it is appropriate to use the terms “American Indian” and “Alaska Native.” These terms represent the cultural and historical distinctions between persons belonging to the indigenous tribes of the United States and the indigenous tribes and villages of Alaska.
The term “Native American” came into broad usage in the 1970’s as an alternative to “American Indian.” Since then, it has been expanded to encompass all Native peoples of the U.S. and its territories, (i.e., American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, Chamorros, and American Samoans.) It also includes individuals from Canada First Nations and indigenous communities in Mexico and Central and South America who are U.S. residents.
Annual notification of policies:
Employees of the Vermont National Guard can access the following policies on the Public Website.
- Anti Harassment Policy
- Reasonable Accommodation Procedures
- EEO Resolution Request Procedures
- Alternative Dispute Resolution
Hiring managers should all be aware of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's requirement for federal agencies to establish a benchmark of achieving 12% representation of persons with a disability among the T5 workforce, as well as a 2% representation of persons with a targeted disability.
Please direct any questions or concerns regarding the above to CPT Scott Detweiler, VTNG Equal Employment Manager: 802-338-3148 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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