Strength in Diversity: Tech. Sgt. Compton's perspective

LAJES FIELD, Azores -- Before I joined the Air Force I recall being looked at with disgust by some when I hung around people that did not share the same color of skin as mine. I didn't know until I joined the Air Force that people from every town did not share those same beliefs. Our diversity is one of the things I love most about the Air Force.

I spent the first nine years of my career in traffic management, a career field selected for me when I enlisted in open administration. I decided to change careers to align my career path with what I wanted to do after I retired from the military. I had also seen inappropriate behavior and heard unprofessional comments that reminded me of that feeling of disgust I felt as a teenager and I wanted to change that.

I looked at job descriptions for AFSCs and called the offices of the career fields I was really interested in to speak with people performing the jobs before making my decision. In the end after interviews and internships were concluded, there was only one job that I wanted to do. I wanted to work in Equal Opportunity. After two years of applying, I was released from traffic management and accepted into Equal Opportunity; I was excited for the challenges ahead.

Four years have passed, and I look back and reflect on why I thought I needed to be an Equal Opportunity advisor before I could correct people on inappropriate behavior. We all share a responsibility to make corrections and speak up when something is wrong. I have seen others share that same mind frame. An inappropriate comment is made and people look around as if to say, "where is EO to make the modification."

As Airmen, we have taken a solemn vow to serve and protect our nation. With that service, however, comes great responsibility and the necessity to make proper choices. Air Force Core Values are viewed as the bedrock of leadership in the Air Force. The three enduring values of integrity, service and excellence are the stated institutional values that provide a moral framework within which military activities are to take place.

Therefore every Airman, regardless of rank, has a responsibility to step in during a potentially bad situation. Common excuses include members thinking inappropriate comments are acceptable because the comment does not personally offend the individual saying the comment. People also use their career field to justify unsuitable language and behavior. Another excuse is 'people are too sensitive today and everyone just needs thicker skin.' These types of mind frames and statements result in a loss of integrity and can promote an unhealthy work environment.

Do not point the finger at someone else to be responsible to intervene. Do not make excuses to justify not taking action.

Our values should align with the Air Force core values to show mutual respect. Genuine respect involves viewing another person as an individual of fundamental worth. This means members should not be judged on the basis of his or her possession of an attribute that places him or her in some racial, ethnic, economic or gender-based category. We must always act in the certain knowledge that all persons possess fundamental worth as human beings.

The next time you hear or witness something that looks questionable. Take the time to question the behavior and heighten your awareness. Remember your contributions help to protect the inalienable right of everyone to be treated with dignity and respect.