MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. — Almost two years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Air Force Academy with many of the leaders of 22nd Air Force, where I found a beautiful base and campus full of rich history and traditions. One of the highlights was a tour of one of the newest buildings, Polaris Hall. Polaris (another name for the North Star) is a very modern building designed to foster collaborative, innovative problem solving with teams of Airmen.
The other purpose of the building is to house the cadet honor court. Before sophisticated navigation systems were developed, people navigated by using the North Star. The concept of the building is if a cadet has done something to stray off course and appear in front of the honor court, they can look up through the specially designed roof to see the North Star so they can find their way back on course.
As I examine the many, many challenges that our wing faces, I sometimes wonder what direction to take. What’s the best course of action and what’s best for our Airmen? Like Polaris showing the way, I find that no matter the challenge or the circumstance, guidance can be found in our Core Values. Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do will apply regardless of the current crises we find ourselves in. Woven into each of the three values is respect: respect for yourself, respect for the organization and respect for each other. We all have the responsibility to hold each other accountable to respecting the Core Values and each other. It’s integral to the success of each team and the organization at large.
Last August, September and October, I personally went to each squadron to deliver Diversity and Inclusion training. If you recall, I stipulated that we will be much better as an organization if we include everyone; we will have a great mix of diverse thought which will yield the best solutions. If we respect everyone, we ALL will have the same opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Chief and I consistently ask you to let us know if there are barriers in your way (do you remember the one lane on the track that had a higher hurdle to get over?)
We kicked off two initiatives last August. The first was to gain approval to have an Alabama State University plane complete with nose art and an outreach event to celebrate the official unveiling. We have made a lot of progress and are on track for an early September unveiling, perhaps even a fly-over before the Labor Day Classic on September 5th against Tuskegee. The second initiative was to better understand the demographics of our wing; we are making progress there as well.
Over the last 15 months we have increased our diversity in the gender and race demographics. Unfortunately, we aren’t very diverse when it comes to our more senior ranks and leadership positions. I’m committed to digging into the data so we can better understand our demographics throughout all ranks. We recently obtained data that will help us analyze our demographics in each rank in each squadron. We don’t fully understand the situation yet but we are enlisting the help of a small group to help us analyze the data and look for positive actions we can take to ensure ALL Airmen have the same opportunities to progress and develop. So far, the one thing we all can agree on is we ALL can do a better job of mentoring each other so all Airmen understand career paths and requirements for promotion and career development.