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Strength through Diversity

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Sean Jones
  • 6th Force Support Squadron commander
In an uncertain world full of potential threats to peace and stability, it's good to know that there are strong forces that help counterbalance those threats...forces like the United States Air Force.

The recently released document, Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power for America (GV-GR-GP), highlights airpower's role in maintaining a strong national defense. Specifically, this document succinctly and plainly describes the Air Force's five core missions: air and space superiority; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; rapid global mobility; global strike; and command and control. Most importantly, GV-GR-GP emphasizes the power of Airmen--active duty, guard, reserve, and civilian--by stating, "the service's unmatched capabilities exist only and precisely because of the imagination, innovation, and dedication of its people." As a corollary, I would add that Airmen's diversity is the key ingredient to our Air Force's unrivaled strength.

Air Force Policy Directive 36-70 broadly 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 background, socioeconomic background, cultural knowledge, educational background, work background, language abilities, physical abilities, philosophical/spiritual perspectives, age, race, ethnicity and gender." You'll note that diversity is not limited to demographic differences, but encompasses cognitive and global diversity as well. To better solve today's complex or "wicked" problems, it's important to build a team of professionals with varying perspectives who are able to think differently in order to find creative, innovative solutions to challenges and since we're expected to provide global power for America, developing Airmen who are competent in language, region, and culture will better enable us to fight alongside our joint and coalition teammates in any area of responsibility. (By the way, your local library can assist you in your pursuit to become more diverse...simply check out a few language CDs or read a few books on the goodness of airpower.) In short, diversity is a key characteristic that enhances our warfighting capability.
The phrase "strength through diversity" manifests itself every day across MacDill Air Force Base where men and women of different backgrounds, cultures, races, and religions, work together to accomplish the mission. We pride ourselves on creating an environment in which each individual is treated with dignity, trust and environment that values diverse talents and thinking. We must continue to recognize and value what each individual brings to the fight. With an active duty and a reserve wing, two combatant commands and other teammates, MacDill AFB is a great example of a diverse, but synergistic team working to accomplish the mission. Each day we witness soldiers, sailors, Airmen, Marines, civilians and contractors working side by side engaged in myriad operations.

In our own unit, the 6th Force Support Squadron, I'm fortunate to witness the benefits of a diverse force each day. We are truly a total force with active and reserve military, appropriated funds civilians, numbered Air Force civilians, contractors and volunteers. Ultimately, it all comes down to support, but we do it across five large flights--each with its own core competency--and through the hard work of a diverse force made up of five different pay systems encompassing 63 unique occupational series. With such a broad mission, it is imperative to leverage that diversity in order to maximize efficiencies and find creative solutions for Team MacDill.

As our Chief of Staff of the Air Force stated in the March 2013 United States Air Force Diversity Strategic Roadmap, "The greatest strength of our Air Force is our Airmen! The greatest strength of our Airmen is their diversity! Each of them comes from a different background, a different family experience and a different social experience. Each brings a different set of skills and a unique perspective to the team. We don't just celebrate diversity...we embrace it!" I encourage all of us to continue to champion and embrace diversity within our respective units.

The GV-GR-GP stresses that no single core mission functions independently--to maximize airpower Airmen must leverage all of its unique characteristics. Similarly, to fully realize a strong Air Force, we must value and maximize the diverse characteristics of all our people. This will help to ensure we remain the world's greatest Air Force...powered by "diverse" Airmen!