KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --
In the first few days of Basic Military Training, new recruits are referred to as the “Rainbow Flight.” This is in reference to how much they stand out in their different colored clothing in the days before being issued their uniforms. It can also represent how much our backgrounds make us stand out from one another.
"Although they change your clothes and the way you stand and the way you look, we still have those diverse backgrounds," said Master Sgt. Terrance Jones, 403rd Wing Equal Opportunity Office superintendent.
According to Air Force Policy Directive 36-70, diversity is a military necessity and is grounded on mutual respect among all personnel.
"We all have blind spots in what we do and how we see the world,” said Chief Master Sgt. Monte Snyder, operations superintendent for the 403rd Maintenance Group. Without diversity, "those blind spots will remain blind spots."
Snyder said it happens all the time where he may think that the way he is doing something is the best and only way to do it. Then someone comes along with a different perspective and background, and then makes that process more efficient.
Those backgrounds and perspectives can involve more than just race or gender. According to AFPD 36-70, diversity encompasses demographic, cognitive and behavioral, organizational and structural, and global diversity.
“We have chiefs here, and they have a different perspective based on their age and their time dealing with the military," said Jones. "So they can tell you how things may go, based on their experience."
Age is just one of the many personal characteristics; including race, gender and family status that make up demographic diversity.
When looking at the different ways people work, cognitive and behavioral diversity can have just as large of an impact on a workplace. It can be good to have people who obsess about the details, while working with members who can balance them out in order to work more efficiently.
Often times, missions downrange require efforts from all of the different branches of the military and sometimes even from different nations. That organizational and global diversity can be critical in getting the mission done.
Diversity still has its challenges in the military. You’ll always have people’s biases and lack of understanding that will get in the way said Snyder, “but if you look at it from the perspective that everyone has something to offer that’s unique, you’ll gain that diversity factor in everything that we do.”
Those challenges to diversity were much larger obstacles in years past, but the wing’s leaders are not letting their guard down when it comes to ensuring the success of diversity programs.
“Our Airmen are our greatest strength; it is through them that we achieve the success that our nation depends on,” said Col. Michael Manion, 403rd Wing commander. “In order to have that success we need the best, which means we need a diverse force.”