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SecDef addresses discrimination, bias with new memo

Tech. Sgt. Lee Rimell, Schriever Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, practices briefing an annual violence prevention and sexual assault prevention training, July 24, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The Secretary of Defense sent down new guidance solidifying the Department of Defense’s zero tolerance policy on discrimination and addressing new ways to combat discrimination in the workplace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

Tech. Sgt. Lee Rimell, Schriever Comptroller Squadron quality assurance manager, practices briefing an annual violence prevention and sexual assault prevention training, July 24, 2020, at Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado. The Secretary of Defense sent down new guidance solidifying the Department of Defense’s zero tolerance policy on discrimination and addressing new ways to combat discrimination in the workplace. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jonathan Whitely)

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. --

In a time of social unrest, it’s important Airmen are able to mitigate and control any biases they may have, which is why the Secretary of Defense sent new guidance to address diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity in the armed forces.

 

The memorandum, was sent out via email to different helping agencies across the Department of Defense, June 19. The Schriever Equal Opportunity and Violence Prevention Offices received that email.

 

“I issued a memorandum directing a three-pronged approach to take the initiative against discrimination, prejudice and bias in all ranks of our Armed Forces,” said Mark Esper, United States secretary of defense in his memorandum. “The purpose of this approach is to promote the morale, cohesion and readiness of the force. Each effort aims to identify actions the department can take within policies, programs and processes to improve diversity, inclusion and equal opportunity for our Service members.”

 

According to Esper’s memorandum, the three-pronged approach is:

1. A short-term "sprint" to identify immediate actions

2. A mid-term Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion to dive deeply into our policies and processes and identify additional actions

3. A long-term Defense Advisory Committee on Diversity and Inclusion in the Armed Services to provide an independent and enduring review and assessment that will strengthen our efforts in this area for generations to come.

 

Although the memo is at the Department of Defense level, Schriever AFB took initiative by hosting Crucial Conversations, a panel where all Airmen are invited to share their experiences and speak openly to leadership.

 

Jessica Ditson, Schriever violence prevention integrator, said one of the best ways to address the issue is to mitigate and control our own biases.

 

“Being aware of our biases gives us an opportunity to challenge what they’re based on and potentially decide to change them,” Ditson said. “If you’re not aware of something, you can’t change it.”

 

Although the Air Force strives to be an all-inclusive environment by having a strict zero-tolerance policy on discrimination and harassment, teams such as the equal opportunity and violence prevention offices exist for a reason.

 

“I would love to say we can all control our personal biases, but unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in,” she said. “Some biases can be healthy, but a lot aren’t, especially when we apply them to other people. If we hold ourselves accountable and have those tough conversations, we could make a much stronger Air and Space Force.”

 

To address the issue at the installation level, Ditson said the annual violence prevention training will include more topics that focus on biases.

 

“There will be more intentional and clearer language in the future,” Ditson said. “This is a topic we will keep addressing along with other forms of violence because bias and prejudice can be the basis for interpersonal or self-directed violence.”

 

The Schriever AFB Equal Opportunity Office also received the memorandum.

 

“Being that we just got new information, the root of our training will remain the same,” Tech. Sgt. Latoya Walker, Schriever AFB equal opportunity specialist and advisor. “We‘re going to tailor what we’ve already learned to fit our current climate and what we’ve observed on Schriever.”

 

There are several protected categories the EO office responds to. They include: race, religion, nationality and sexual orientation discrimination among others.

 

“The policy on discrimination and harassment in the DoD and Air Force is zero tolerance,” she said. “We educate as a preventative measure to make sure before it becomes a complaint, we’re doing everything we can to show what discrimination looks like, how to prevent it and how to mitigate it.”

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