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Military equal opportunity + your support = positive relations

  • Published
  • By Capt. Tammy M. Foster
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Military Equal Opportunity chief
Things have certainly changed...for the better! In January 1996, as a staff sergeant, I entered into what was known as the social actions career field, now military equal opportunity. Back then, it was a lonely world for my colleagues and me because there was a negative stigma attached to the social actions office.

Many thought social actions desperately sought out and resolved complaints at the expense of others. As a technician, while I didn't agree with the perception, I understood the concern; therefore, I worked feverishly to help diminish that line of thinking.

As we all know, perception is reality so I took it upon myself to reintroduce our office and our role in monitoring the human relations climate. I felt it was my responsibility to help build a program that was not only supported by leadership, but one where members would see our office as a helping agency, communicating trust and understanding. An agency focused on helping them resolve their concerns.

In the end, my efforts paid off as we met face-to-face with success and gained the trust not only of the commanders, but, more importantly, that of the military and civilian population across the installation. I really can't describe my joy, but, it was an awesome feeling when I walked into an office and was greeted with a smile versus, the comment, "oh boy there's the discrimination police again."

That was 11 years ago, and in my opinion, that perception of MEO no longer exists. People have changed, mindsets have expanded and programs have evolved. I firmly believed then and more so now, the reputation of the MEO office is all we have and if we don't work hard to establish and maintain a good rapport with all members, military and civilian, then how effective would the program be? I think it's safe to say not effective at all!

Our focus is the health of MacDill's human relations climate and our daily tasks include fostering effective communication and rapport up, down and across the chain of command. In this line of work, positive working relationships are important because this is such an interactive profession.

Much of what MEO does is on behalf of commanders, because the fact remains, equal opportunity is a commander's program. Through our partnership with leadership, we work to improve mission effectiveness by promoting an environment free from personal, social or institutional barriers and to neutralize acts of discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, sex or color and in the case of civilian employees, age or handicapping conditions.

While I've been empowered to manage the MEO program, the fact remains, I can't do it without the support of commanders, directors, chiefs and first sergeants. Let's not forget about the crucial role supervisor's play in maintaining a culture free from sexual harassment and discrimination that allows members to rise to the highest level of responsibility possible. Most importantly is the role of the individual.

While MEO stands ready to assist active duty, retirees and family members at all times, we encourage everyone to resolve matters at the lowest level possible; beginning with confronting the alleged offender. Doing so early on will allow members to fully concentrate on their in-garrison and/or wartime mission.

In my three weeks on the job, I've had the pleasure of speaking with various members and I've determined MacDill has strong supporters of the equal opportunity program. Like other bases, we have our share of concerns, but it's to be expected since people are brought together from different cultures, backgrounds and socializations to accomplish a common goal. Just for a moment, sit back and imagine those dynamics and how we as professionals continue to forge through and successfully work through our differences to accomplish the mission...Wow!

While it can be challenging, over time it gets easier as our awareness of self and others increase. Celebrating our differences is just as important as realizing our similarities and as a TEAM, Together Everyone Achieves More, MacDill is assuredly postured to effectively fly, fight and win!

I'd be remised in my duties if I didn't identify the three MEO professionals that are dedicated to maintaining MacDill's positive human relations climate. My hat goes off to Tech. Sgt. Danny Alltop, Tech. Sgt. Cynthia Crouse and Staff Sgt. Raina Sewell for their attitude of integrity, service and excellence, and more importantly for a job well done!
Team MacDill, I appreciate your support of the MEO program and for maintaining a positive climate that's conducive to the personal and professional development of all.