Air Force focused on diversity, future

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- Since its inception, the Air Force has been at the forefront of appreciating members of various backgrounds and ethnicities; however, with a smaller force on the horizon, the Air Force is making a concerted effort to prioritized opportunities to harness and effectively transform unique talents and abilities into mission advantages.

Capitalizing on these capabilities makes our Air Force more agile, innovative and effective, and serves as the impetus to creative solutions to complex problems that enables a competitive edge.

On 18 January, 2011, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13583, which established a government-wide initiative to promote diversity in the federal workforce. It states, "we are at our best when we draw on the talents of all parts of our society, and our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse perspectives are brought to bear to overcome our greatest challenges."

Diversity enables us to overcome and effectively manage many of the challenges a smaller Air Force will face while robustly completing our core mission. Diversity encompasses more than demographics and ethnicities. Our leaders and Airmen are asked to focus on all the unique qualities each member brings to the fight, such as individuals' ranges of knowledge, professional and personal skills, as well as, the whole gambit of one's background (e.g., culture, religion, language and socioeconomics).

This isn't limited to just our blue-suited Airmen, but both our U.S. and foreign national civilians and our coalition partners, all working collaboratively to meet complex and emergent threats.

As the world's premier air, space and cyber force, diversity is critical for successful operations in the international community. Cross-culturally competent Airmen, especially those with foreign language skills, are integral to establishing effective partnerships.

The Air Force Diversity Strategic Roadmap is the action plan that directly supports the President's Executive Order and the Air Force's diversity initiatives. The roadmap establishes five priorities: to institutionalize diversity throughout the Air Force and to attract, recruit, develop and retain a high quality, talented and diverse total force.

Throughout the coming months the Air Force will be developing structures and strategies to equip leaders with the ability to manage diversity, be accountable, measure results, refine approaches on the basis of data and institutionalize a culture of inclusion. This may entail, among many initiatives, the issuance of policy statements and stand up of diversity forums, committees and teams.

Efforts will be made to continually attract top talent to consider the Air Force as an employer of choice. This calls us all to be positive roles models. To assist in attracting highly sought after skills and abilities from all markets, targeted recruiting strategies will be developed and instituted. Another key goal is to create an effective life-cycle continuum that focuses on education, training, mentoring, and professional development. Of course, ultimately our overarching goal is to achieve an inclusive environment that provides the total force with the opportunity to realize their full potential and the ability to apply it in their service.

Our Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, sums up our goal of diversity quite admirably, "dignity and respect must be the heart of who we are and how we operate."