Comfortable in our skin: Professional development aims to increase capability through diversity

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students discuss diversity on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 4, 2017.

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students discuss diversity on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 4, 2017. The day touched on the hard topics of stereotypes, race, religion, and other factors which can impede someone’s ability to connect to others. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Alexandra Naranjo)

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students stand in formation for the raising of the U.S. flag on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 1, 2017.

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students stand in formation for the raising of the U.S. flag on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 1, 2017. The students were required to wear their duty uniform 23 out of the 24 days at ALS, with the exception being Diversity Day. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Alexandra Naranjo)

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students learn about understanding diversity on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.,  Aug. 4, 2017.

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students learn about understanding diversity on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 4, 2017. The day served as a way to introduce students to new ideas for their futures as new supervisors and noncommissioned officers. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Alexandra Naranjo)

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students attend class in attire that best describes themselves for Diversity Day on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 4, 2017.

Langley Air Force Base Airman Leadership School students attend class in attire that best describes themselves for Diversity Day on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Aug. 4, 2017. During this day, they were given tools to better understand diversity in all of its conditions. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman Alexandra Naranjo)

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --

It’s rare to see U.S. Air Force Airmen serve a duty day out of uniform, but the abnormal occurrence is now a part of a professional development objective: Think consciously about how diversity can improve mission readiness.

 

During Diversity Day at the Professional Development Center on Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Airman Leadership School students are encouraged to think about the importance of diversity and how incorporating unique life experiences and lessons can propel a unit’s ability to effectively support the mission and warfighters.

 

“When people first think about diversity and inclusion in the military, they think of minorities and women,” said Chief Master Sgt. Janna Dorvil, Air Force Headquarters Diversity and Inclusion chief. “It’s much more than that. We all have a story and that story is different from everyone. We have to understand how to utilize our talent coming from different walks of life.”

 

According to Master Sgt. Karla Guevara, 633rd Force Support Squadron Airman Leadership School commandant, the day provides a forum for students to speak openly about stereotypes, race, religion, and other factors that can impede someone’s ability to connect with others. She also added that encouraging the students to wear attire that best represents them, their culture, their hobbies, and their backgrounds opens up the atmosphere for more personal communication and understanding of the sensitive topics that could hinder accomplishing the mission.

 

According to Senior Master Sgt. Lafrance Ballard, Air Force Headquarters Diversity and Inclusion superintendent, the intention of introducing topics like this at the early stages of leadership is to create a foundation of understanding others under various circumstances.

 

“Diversity and inclusion helps remove artificial barriers,” said Ballard. “What we don’t want to happen is our visual perceptions to get in the way of how we fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace.”

 

For Guevara and the Diversity and Inclusion staff, the hope is that Diversity Day will help grow students into leaders who think consciously of the growing Air Force, and how the differences in Airmen make the Air Force more capable.

 

“People are our number one asset in the military,” said Dorvil.  “To have people show up ready to work, we need to take care of them and listen to them. You have to make it so everyone can live up to their full potential.”