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Groundbreaking diversity training begins in Puerto Rico

By Airman 1st Class Bernadette Ballester and Capt. Matt Murphy | Puerto Rico National Guard | March 12, 2019

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Members of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard recently took part in groundbreaking diversity and inclusion training led by members of the Air National Guard Readiness Center.

This new training is an adaptation of business and industry techniques and instruction applied in a military environment.

“Creating a culture of active listening and inclusive behaviors is the pathway to forming bonds of camaraderie and teamwork among all of our members,” said Chief Master Sgt. Timothy Perret, Human Resources Advisor and Diversity Program Manager, Air National Guard. Perret was the primary instructor for members who attended the training at Muniz Air National Guard Base.

During the instruction, the definition of diversity laid the foundation for conversation: “As part of the Air Force family, we will meet individuals from different states across the country with unique customs, ideology, ethnicity and talents. The training session addresses the topic of Diversity and Inclusion by putting the issues at hand in view from another’s perspective in order to gain better proficiency and effectiveness, in sharing and accepting opinions.”

“Throughout life we encounter individuals with varying personalities,” said Col. Kenneth Lozano, director of diversity and inclusion, Air National Guard. “There will be circumstances when we do not always perceive things the same way; therefore disagreements between co-workers should be something solvable between individuals, especially in the workplace.”

Lozano added that the tools of knowledge presented in this new training might be useful, not only in a professional environment but in family relationships and marriage.

PRANG members were able to use a personality assessment workbook, which uses components of the Myers Briggs scale to determine which category is most like them. Participants were encouraged to share and express which tools were most useful from their training.

“Knowing what is most significant to individuals is what will help me understand how to collaborate with them,” said Senior Airman Mercado.

“Applying inclusion can be as simple as having lunch with members of the squadron,” said Perret. This is important because being present for your Airman is an opportunity for them to express concerns or mention ideas that they may otherwise not have time for during an otherwise structured workday. A leader will not know if an Airman is having a bad day if he or she does not know what a good day looks like. Take the time to know your Airmen.

In his debrief with Wing leadership, Lozano explained that units who choose a single focus in the new training are most successful. He said he felt the PRANG was an ideal location to test the instruction as the unit is in a state of transition and could benefit from the outcomes the members develop.

“I understand our Wing’s focus is trust,” said Col. Raymond Figueroa, 156th Wing Commander. “The challenges and experiences we’ve had with hurricanes, a mishap, compliance issues and the lack of a mission are debilitating attributes that tear down our members' trust. This is an area we can work on and improve across the Wing. The data and feedback from this training will really benefit us.”

Lozano also happens to be Puerto Rican and the issues and results of the training ‘hit home’ for him.

“Serving others in this organization is vital for mission readiness,” said Lozano. “This is an organization based on trusting that your fellow Airmen are there to support each other. Our ultimate goal is to achieve Agility, Innovation and Resilience.”

“We have to live our core values, be professional and ready, have accountability and take care of one another,” said Lozano. “It’s the only way to understand yourself and others and how you will reach achievable success.”

This Air National Guard program is in step with Total Force initiatives USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein calls, “warfighting imperative.” At the latest Air Force Association conference, Air Force Magazine quoted him saying, “We have blinders on as leaders, and need to reach out to airmen from all backgrounds, races, genders, etc., to point out ways to improve. The only way we can see that is to surround ourselves and build teams in ways that others can point them out for us,” Goldfein said, adding that there needs to be a “big tent” culture of acceptance in the Air Force.

The Air National Guard is implementing its new training nationwide.