SAVANNAH, Ga. - Diversity in the National Guard is an important component of continued success and educating leaders in diversity is one way to further strengthen the Guard, said the Guard's top general.
"One of our National Guard's greatest strengths as an operational force is that we are present in communities across the country," said Army Gen. Frank Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, at the National Guard Diversity Conference. "When you bring in the National Guard, you bring in the richness and diversity of hometown America."
The conference focused on building greater diversity within the Guard.
"You will see how important diversity and inclusion is in everything we do," Grass said during his address to attendees. Diversity, he added,is important because it allows the Guard to represent the communities Guard members serve.
"That's why this conference and setting the stage here is important," he said. "I want you to be thinking about what we should look like in 2025 and beyond."
Focusing on those long term goals allows the Guard to complete its mission of fighting America's wars, defending the homeland and building enduring partnerships.
"Those are the three missions," Grass said. "They're so closely tied to the diverse organization we are and the inclusion of all of us to build that force for the future."
Although the three missions are the priorities of the Guard, they cannot be met without individual Guard members working together.
"Everything deals with people and that's how important this conference is," Grass said. "As we bring diversity and inclusion into our organization, we get better every day."
That also works to create an environment where Guard members stay engaged while finding greater cohesion.
"Not only do you get trust with an organization, you get integrity to the process," said Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Brush, the senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the NGB. "Diversity in our perspective should be a natural progression on how we get to solving problems."
Solving problems is part of being a high-quality leader who can adjust to a changing environment.
Good leaders must be adaptive to a changing workforce and missions, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Ondra Berry, special assistant on diversity to the chief of the NGB and assistant adjutant general for Air with the Nevada National Guard.
Berry said that good leaders must have a fundamental care for people and not fixate on one belief system.
"You're going to have to have an adaptive leader for that," Berry said.
Being an adaptive leader also means being bold.
"If I wanted someone to remember three things about diversity, it would be color bold, gender bold and capability bold," said Army Brig Gen Linda Singh, head of the Maryland Army National Guard. "I think if we focus on those three things, we accomplish a lot."
And that includes looking at a Guard member's individual qualities.
"We need to be looking at all individuals, ensuring that we're allowing them to bring the best of themselves to the table," she said. "I want them to bring their culture, background and everything about them and as soon as you allow individuals to do that, they are going to outperform beyond your expectations."
Using the qualities of others can help build up organizations to be more enduring.
"The most efficient, most effective, high performance organizations will capture and take advantage of and harness all the different types of attributes of personality in addition to demographic diversity," said Army Maj. Gen. Timothy A. Reisch, chair of the NGB Joint Diversity Executive Committee and adjutant general of the South Dakota National Guard. "When people have different backgrounds, education and experiences, that is what will make this organization stronger."
During the conference, Grass and other senior Guard officials signed the NGB Diversity Strategic Plan.
"This is a historic event," said Air Force Col. Shirley Raguindin, chief of diversity for the NGB. "It is important for the National Guard to have a document to hold us accountable to implement diversity and inclusion."
The strategic plan will help the Guard become among the top in diversity and inclusion, with the goal to be number one, Raguindin said.
"In order to do that, we need to communicate our initiatives on diversity and inclusion," she said.
And that is an important step toward meeting those goals.
"What we are doing with diversity is ensuring that we (implement) it throughout the National Guard," she said.