Many of us trace our ancestry and heritage to countries outside the United States and the “melting pot” history of our nation is well-publicized. Often, we forget how the country we know and love today is a direct result of the fusion of different nationalities, ethnicities and cultures during the past 240 years of our nation’s existence. Diversity has made our nation stronger and continues to be the foundation for our future successes.
Our Air Force is no different. Our diverse range of skills, backgrounds and knowledge, as well as our ability to learn from each other’s experiences, is what makes us the world’s greatest air and space force. In fact, diversity is so critical to Air Force mission accomplishment that we have an Air Force policy directive specifically addressing it as a military necessity. AFPD 36-70 defines diversity as “a composite of individual characteristics, experiences and abilities consistent with the Air Force Core Values and the Air Force mission, and includes such areas as personal life experiences and geographic and socioeconomic background. It is also Air Force policy to celebrate diversity initiatives to enhance the Total Force, which is evident in awareness events such as Asian Pacific American Heritage month and Hispanic Heritage month.
Our military’s expanding multiculturalism also reflects our nation’s demographics. President Obama frequently leads naturalization ceremonies for active duty service members in the East Room of the White House. During the ceremonies, uniformed service members from various countries recite the pledge of allegiance and become American citizens.
Who can think of a more appropriate setting in which to become an American citizen than by eating barbecue and watching fireworks from the White House lawn with the President? In fact, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services fact sheet indicates that more than 109,321 members of the military have become naturalized U.S. citizens since October 2001, a number sure to grow each year.
The Air Force has made diversity a priority and compels leaders to foster an environment in which mutual respect and trust are prevalent. However, it should be the goal of every Airman to promote the exchange of ideas and mentorship between those with different backgrounds.
Only when Airmen understand and respect each other for our differences will we be able to capitalize on diversity’s benefits.