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The Value of Diversity

Offutt Air Force Base celebrates Diversity Day 2010.

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SELFRIDGE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mich. -- Diversity it is a word we hear about from time-to-time, and many of us only think of it when we have attend a class on the subject in order fulfill a training requirement. Diversity, however, is integral to our well-being as a military organization. When the concept of diversity is discussed, most of us think of the major differences define humanity; gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc... Yes, diversity most certainly includes those categories, yet it is so much more. I would dare to say that the concept of "diversity" is as big as the human race itself. Like a snowflake, no two people in the world are the same. Simply put, diversity is valuing the contributions of every member within the organization.

As members of the Air National Guard, why is diversity so important and why should you care? Studies have shown that when teams are comprised of individuals who are similar to one another, they reach a solution to a problem at a faster rate than teams comprised of dissimilar people. However, those same studies have shown that better solutions arise from teams whose members are dissimilar. Surrounding ourselves with people who act, look, and think like ourselves may be depriving the organization of that "out-of-the-box" thinking that could mean the difference between success and failure. What a tragedy it would be if the Air National Guard could not fulfill its mission of protecting the American people due to the simple reason that the organization is staffed with members who look, act, and think like one another. When a condition such as this exist the phenomenon called "group think" can occur, and it could prove disastrous to an organization that mission is great and resources limited.

Another reason why we as Air National Guardsmen should value diversity is for the very reason why we exist. We must keep in mind that the ANG mission is to protect and defend the people of the United States and its 50 states and six territories. Also, the ANG is staffed mainly of "Citizen-Airmen" who are recruited from the areas near where ANG units are located. As an organization whose mission it is to protect and serve the citizens of our state and nation isn't it reasonable - and expected - that the Airmen of the Michigan Air National Guard resemble the racial, ethnic, and gender make-up of the state? If we are truly Citizen-Airmen protecting the great democracy of the United States, then we must strive to create a climate in which all citizens who join our ranks can rise to their greatest potential.

The Air National Guard is already a very diverse organization in the backgrounds where we recruit our members from. In fact, I would be willing to put money that the Air National Guard is the most diverse military component in the DoD. In my years of service with the 127th Wing, I've seen our members come out of the Active-duty Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, as well as "Guard Babies" - our members who have spent their entire careers within the ANG. It is from these multiple backgrounds that we get some fantastic ideas and leadership into our organization. Having those 'best practices' from the other branches of military only can add to the strength and viability of the ANG. Likewise, the experiences of our traditional Guardsmen from their civilian employment are another source of incredible diversity that makes the ANG such a flexible organization. I've seen on multiple occasions the experience one of our members brought in from their civilian occupation greatly aided in the unit's ability to accomplish the mission.

As you go about your duties ask yourself - is my duty section fosters a climate in which anyone would feel welcomed? Can a young person joining your section feel they can contribute to the mission and rise to their greatest potential regardless of what background they come from? If the answer is yes, then you and your work center values diversity. If the answer is no, then some work needs to be done. In today's climate of limited resources and competing demands for talent, the Air National Guard can ill afford not to value the importance of diversity.