ARLINGTON, Va. - Since its inception nearly 400 years ago, a diverse population of National Guard members have protected the communities where they live and serve. It's a key reason, noted Army Gen Frank Grass, why they have succeeded in combat and homeland response.
"One of our National Guard's greatest strength as an operational force is that we are present in communities across the country," said Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau. "In the end, when you bring in the National Guard, you bring in the richness and diversity of hometown America."
The National Guard, with a presence in nearly 2,600 communities, has a demographic makeup that mirrors the nation.
"The National Guard reflects the fabric of our nation's communities – in every state, territory and the District of Columbia," said Alfranda Durr, program manager for the Equal Opportunity and Diversity Office. According to Durr, that means that diversity is more than just race, gender and ethnicity. It also includes diversity of thought and skills.
"We benefit immensely from the different perspectives, linguistic and cultural skills of all Americans," Durr said.
With approximately 69% of the National Guard force made up of the millennial generation, Durr used the example of how millennials in the ranks would strengthen the enterprise.
"Since we're looking at a day and age where cyber security will play a larger role in our organization, we are looking to those millennials who have those digital skills will change the face in terms of how we address battles in the future," he said.
Understanding cultural backgrounds and capabilities is a thought echoed by Army Maj. Gen. Linda L. Singh, Maryland's adjutant general.
"It is imperative that we understand the different cultural backgrounds; that we understand what our different capabilities can do in order to be able to support that and we have to understand how our people are going to be able to interact with that global environment," she said in an NGB Diversity Conference interview.
Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Mitch Brush, the senior enlisted advisor to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said different people and perspectives strengthen the Guard.
"Embracing a diverse group of people brings in a wealth of skills, knowledge and experience to the Guard," he insisted. "With all that talent, we can tap into that reservoir to develop our force and our leaders."
Editor's Note: The National Guard's Joint Diversity Executive Council, charged by the chief of the National Guard Bureau to take a strategic look at the National Guard as an enterprise and seek opportunities to develop diversity, has been ranked in the Top 25 nationally by the Association of Diversity Councils the last four years - last year the JDEC placed second.