JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
The Air Force Office of Diversity and Inclusion was established Dec. 21, 2020, based on the recommendations of both the Office of Secretary of Defense and Air Force Inspector General independent review of racial disparity, ordered by the secretary of the Air Force and the Air and Space Forces service chiefs.
With ODI being established at the Air Force level, Air Combat Command is now making a cultural change beginning by appointing Dr. Rachel Castellon as ACC’s first ever Diversity and Inclusion Officer.
“We take from our citizens, that’s who become our airmen and we want an Air Force that is representative of our country,” said Castellon. “That means giving everyone an equal opportunity to progress and take their talents, skills and expertise and utilize them to the best of their ability for the betterment of the Air Force.”
According to Castellon, this intentional cultural cultivation is crucial to helping the Air Force, through its airmen, to continue to outperform US adversaries by increasing unity and productivity. She is poised to assist and develop the wing level councils at each of the ACC bases spread across the U.S.
The ODI office for ACC falls under the ACC A1 Directorate of Manpower and Personnel overseen by Col. Ron Cheatham. Cheatham added, the importance of the Diversity and Inclusion Officer’s position can really be tied to the importance of ensuring that we are getting 100% from 100% of our Airmen.
From leaders at Air Force ODI, there is no other country in the world so widely diverse, yet so deeply committed to being unified as the United States of America. Across the force, diversity of background, experience, demographics, perspectives, thought and organization are essential to the ultimate success in an increasingly competitive and dynamic global environment.
“Diversity and Inclusion is for everyone, even though technology can be copied, airframes and weaponry can be duplicated, no one can really copy the American spirit,” Cheatham said. “As a leader I want everyone that I am responsible for to have a voice. At its basic foundation that is what inclusion is about and how we all benefit.”
In Castellon’s twenty years of service, she has learned that there is a lot to understand in every job and many opportunities to give back. She says her investment in the Air Force has only grown over time and she plans to utilize that experience in this Diversity and Inclusion position.
“I feel really indebted to the Air Force in a lot of ways because if it wasn’t for the Air Force, I wouldn’t have received my CCAF Degree, I wouldn’t have been selected for a commissioning program so I could finish my undergraduate degree, and I wouldn’t have done my master’s degree or my PHD for that matter. The Air Force has done a lot for me,” Castellon said.
With a desire to give back to the Air Force, Castellon is setting out to ensure that others receive the same kind of opportunities that she did without bias. A culture of inclusivity, established in a diverse Air Force that mimics the diversity of the U.S., and which she hopes will allow others to feel the same sense of desire to give back to the Air Force.
“We are looking at integration, making sure that diversity and inclusion is part of the culture…that it is sustained in the Air Force,” Castellon concluded. “That will be done by finding ways to incorporate it into our programs, processes, policies and educational training.”