Diversity equals mutual respect

  • Published
  • By Dawn A. Altmaier
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Community Support Coordinator
Air Force Instruction 36-7001, Diversity, 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."

So why does diversity matter in the Air Force? It matters because the Air Force is grounded on inclusion and mutual respect among all personnel. Human nature makes it natural for us to gravitate towards people who are like us. Whether that likeness is physical such as the color of our skin, or mental such as being affiliated with a certain political party, we all feel comfortable with others who share similarities. Sometimes this gravitation unintentionally leads to actual or perceptual exclusion or rejection. Either case is detrimental to the success of a team.

A team is like the human body. As the body has various individual parts with very specific functions that need one another, so we, as members of the Air Force team, have very specific abilities in order to function effectively. Your various body parts are extremely diverse, yet they operate independently and in unity to accomplish a purpose beyond the scope of any individual part. Say you were going to cross the street, your eyes tell you if it is safe, your ears listen for oncoming traffic, your heart carries blood to your muscles and your muscles move your legs forward.

The same is true of the Air Force team; we are a diverse team who operate individually to accomplish a purpose greater than ourselves. Imagine you are deployed to a bare base in a region unlike anything you've experienced. Would you want everyone to be the same as you, or would you want people who come with different experiences, perspectives, and ideals? People who grew up in the country have a different perspective than those who grew up in a city. People who are "outdoorsman" will have different skill sets than a "gamer". Someone from Montana will have different experiences than someone who grew up in Florida. Someone from Aircraft Maintenance will face challenges differently than someone from the Force Support Squadron. Someone born in the 60's will have different life experiences than someone born in the 90's. We need these differences to adapt and overcome obstacles we face as a team.

If we were not diversified, would we ever learn something new? Would we be able to grow ideas? Would we be able to overcome challenges and obstacles to the greatest extent possible? Probably not.

Next time you are with a group of people, get to know someone who is different than you. Celebrate your diversity and use it to unify rather than divide. We are all a team member of our great Air Force and what you bring to the fight helps us prevail in a rapidly changing world.