VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – A new Diversity and Inclusion Council took shape at Vance AFB April 5 to help the 71st Flying Training Wing celebrate diverse cultures, experiences, perspectives and backgrounds.
After nine months of reviewing the policies, principles and cultural norms surrounding diversity and inclusion at Vance, Col. Jay Johnson, the 71st FTW commander, saw a need to create a council that would work to safeguard progress toward diversification within the ranks and educate new and current Airmen about the value of a diverse fighting force.
“The 71st Flying Training Wing is committed to promoting and fostering an environment that celebrates the diversity of our Airmen, civilians and contracted partners,” Johnson said in a memorandum.
In the next 12 months, the council expects to establish their presence at Vance, gain representation from all units and create an official observance month plan, said Maj. Erin Killion, the initiative’s leader and a T-6 instructor pilot with the 8th Flying Training Squadron.
Maj. Andrew Crawford, the chief of standards and evaluations for the 71st Operations Group and a council member, said the team has educated Airmen using a grass roots approach. Going forward, the team seeks to be a permanent fixture at Vance and a resource for all Airmen.
As part of the preparation for creating this council, Lt. Col. Christina Hopper, a flight commander with the 5th Flying Training Squadron and the first U.S. Air Force African-American female F-16 combat pilot, trained two Vance members on unconscious biases and the impact is has on mission success.
Since then, 25 others have qualified to lead unconscious bias training.
In addition, Crawford introduced a Commanders Enrichment program through the task force.
Commanders attended a briefing in September 2020 about how history has affected unconscious bias, said Crawford.
In addition, the commanders read Malcom Gladwell’s book, “Talking with Strangers,” and discussed it. “The book was so thought provoking because it emphasizes that people don’t always act consistently with what we think they should,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kristy Earls, the 71st FTW command chief.
These efforts led to small group discussions base-wide between commanders and their Airmen about understanding unconscious bias.
“We have to work harder and better to tell the story that diversity of people is valuable,” said Killion. “A room full of different people makes us a more lethal force.”