Equality in the Air Force

  • Published
  • By 49th Wing Equal Opportunity office
  • 49th Wing Equal Opportunity

You may ask yourself, "What is equality, and what does it do for me?" The roles are ever-changing as we've seen with the civil rights movement, suffrage movement, and Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, and the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' How do we enforce, or even keep abreast of, the protections we are all guaranteed under the Constitution and Air Force policy?  

Discrimination...does that even happen anymore? It is sad to say, but yes it still does. How do we create an environment free of unlawful discrimination and sexual harassment? It is the policy of the United States government, the Department of Defense and the U.S. Air Force, not to condone or tolerate these actions. This zero tolerance policy ensures that once unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment is alleged, immediate action will be taken to investigate or resolve the allegations and ensure any proven unlawful behavior stops.

The Air Force has designated the Equal Opportunity office as a neutral source to educate our members, process complaints, administer unit climate assessments, and much more. They not only work with the active duty and reserve military, but also with our civilian personnel, retirees and dependents. The equal opportunity staff conducts briefings (Holloman In-Processing, commander's calls, and first duty station briefings) to educate our members and assist individuals, supervisors, first sergeants and commanders. Meeting with our first-term airmen for 2.5 hours is one of the most intriguing and insightful briefings where we not only teach but learn from our new Airmen about their views and experiences.

As we all know, the civilian culture is different than Air Force culture in regard to what is acceptable and what is not. During the most recent first - term airmen briefing Staff Sgt. David Jackson and Staff Sgt. Brittany Gutierrez did something a little different by asking the students to briefly write down what equal opportunity meant to them and why equal opportunity is important in our military. Below in summary are the words of our younger generation of Air Force military members - our military's future!

Equal Opportunity is respect for one another, treating others how you would want people to treat your family. Equal Opportunity levels the playing field, makes it possible for individuals to reach their maximum potential. Equal Opportunity gives people the same chances in life as any other person regardless of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, etc. Equal Opportunity is fair, it doesn't judge. Equal Opportunity is probably the best law that was ever passed. Equal Opportunity is melting the melting pot. Equal Opportunity is an essential part of life and in the workplace. Everyone has their own beliefs, likes and dislikes, and opinions and every person should be entitled to this. Equal Opportunity gives us that chance to be who we are and not be afraid or ashamed of it. America is very diverse and that is what makes America such an incredible country. Equal Opportunity gives our very diverse country the right to have an equal chance at everything, everything we deserve.

Equality is important in the military because we are a largely diverse population all working together to reach the same goal - to accomplish the mission. It doesn't matter if you are different than the person next to you. They still have your back no matter what, and you became family when you raised your hand and took the oath. Our very differences make us stronger, more united because we combine those attributes together to make the Air Force Culture - a culture that we believe is honorable, trustworthy and respected. The military life (the very nature of what we do, being away from family with temporary duty assignments, deployments, and Permanent Change of Station moves) can be very stressful. Knowing that we are free from additional stressors (such as discrimination) allows us to stay focused on what is important - ourselves, our families and our mission.  

Fly, Fight and Win! We cannot do this without our most valuable asset, our people. Each person, irrespective of the unique characteristics they possess, is important and valuable to this country and our military. If we treat people like they make a difference, they will make a difference.