Diversity, Inclusion and You

  • Published
  • By Chief Master Sgt. Dawn Gillaspy, 144th FW Command Chief
  • 144th Fighter Wing

The dictionary states that diversity is “the quality or state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization,” and the definition of inclusion is “the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.”

The Air Force further defines diversity as “a composite of individual characteristics, experiences and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force Mission. Air Force diversity includes but is not limited to: personal life experiences, geographic and socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural knowledge, educational background, work experience, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical and spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity, and gender.”

Inclusion is defined by the Air Force as “the process of creating a culture where all members of an organization are free to make their fullest contributions to the success of the group, and where there are no unnecessary barriers to success.” This includes employing, paying, providing training opportunities, sharing workloads, and valuing diverse experiences and skills equitably among all personnel within the organization.

Many of you may have noticed over the last several years an increased focus on diversity and inclusion from military leaders. This focus is evident by the establishment of the Air Force Diversity and Inclusion Council and recently published documents, including the Disparity Reviews, USAF Rated Diversity Improvement Strategy and numerous others. As part of these efforts, the Air Force has removed photos from promotion packages to eliminate bias, has strengthened protections against harassment and discrimination, prohibits extremist activities, and requires training to identify and respond appropriately to bias. Even changes to regulations about hairstyles and grooming are aimed at reducing bias and encouraging inclusivity.

Did you know that the Air Force also has long-term strategies and goals towards diversity and inclusion? They include attracting, assessing, and retaining an elite and diverse force by ensuring a culture of diversity. They seek to identify and remove barriers to diversity in aptitude tests, offer more ROTC scholarships to diverse populations, and adjust recruitment strategies to provide more opportunities to diverse individuals.

These actions and related initiatives help make us a stronger force; they help members start to believe that the system will serve them, and that they are valued. They bring a broader range of ideas to the playing field and make the force more innovated. 

The military has a diverse make up and that is one of our greatest assets. All of us are different, whether it be our culture, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or any of our other identities. When our differences are valued and included, they unite us for the common goal of mission success, and they makes us a stronger and more effective force. 

So, what does this D & I mean for you? We all must value each other, and value each other’s input. It shouldn’t matter if input comes from the youngest Airman in the group, a Hispanic Airman, a Caucasian Airman, an African American Airman, an Airman in the Communications Flight, an Airman in the Security Forces Squadron, or the eldest Airman on the team. A good idea is a good idea. Their input is important, valued and needed to help us innovate and move the force forward. We must continue to create a healthy working environment where members of different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and talents work together. We have to recognize that we are all different but serve the same cause and work towards the same goal: mission success.

In the coming weeks, the Griffins will be creating a Diversity and Inclusion Council lead by Technical Sgt. Victoria Rio Frio. Although the objectives of the council are not yet fully defined, it will be comprised of 144th Fighter Wing Griffins, who are working towards the common goal of continuing to build a premier team of professionals that are diverse, inclusive, connected and relentlessly improving to serve nation and state. So, if you see an invite to a discussion on D&I or an event that highlights a cultural or ethnic group, take some time to check it out. I also encourage Airmen to reach out to Technical Sgt. Rio Frio and ask to be a part of the team. Get involved and help to make a change and contribute to inclusion.