MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. (AFNS) --
Diversity means having a variety of people who are different from one another, but equity and inclusion means those differences are accounted for, embraced and even celebrated.
Malmstrom Air Force Base’s Diversity and Inclusion Council was recognized as the Air Force’s 2021 D&I Team of the Year, Jan. 12.
Master Sgt. Darnell Dobson, D&I program manager, explained that in addition to their ongoing work of fostering an environment of equity and inclusion and continuing the base’s long-standing observances, in 2021 the council initiated the first Pride Month events at Malmstrom AFB and the first Juneteenth celebration in the city of Great Falls.
The Juneteenth celebration and city-wide holiday proclamation was the biggest coordinated effort between the council and the local community in 2021, and Dobson said the relationship grew throughout the year.
The council also worked with the local community to establish three historical land markers, raise funds for special observances, and rename a section of the public library in honor of Alma Jacobs.
“With the ties that we have with the community and everything we’ve been doing, it’s encouraged them to want to be educated and they are even putting on a racial equity workshop,” Master Sgt. Rachael Dobson, D&I deputy program manager.
The team was even invited to be part of the interview process for the local police department and give input on what questions could be asked to help hire people that value and respect diversity.
“They came to us because they value the D&I team,” Dobson said. “They asked us, ‘What do you think we should be asking? We’re seeing a lot of issues happening in the world and we don’t want that to happen in Great Falls.’”
“We’re in a remotely-isolated location at Malmstrom (AFB) and it’s important for young people when they come from wherever they’re from, whatever background they’re from, to make sure they feel like they are accepted and that they are included in all that we’re doing here,” said. Col. Kenneth McGhee, 341st Operations Group commander.
During a video teleconference Jan. 18, Air Force Global Strike Command leadership had the opportunity to speak with members of the D&I council and thank them for their work.
“This team is exactly what we are looking for,” said Gen. Anthony Cotton, AFGSC commander. “It is a diverse and unified team that is having crucial conversations about diversity and inclusion. I just wanted to say thank you for representing Strikers.”
“You are fostering the climate we are looking for when we talk about Striker culture,” said Chief Master Sgt. Melvina Smith, AFGSC command chief. “You are fostering inclusion and a culture where we value our team members.”
Master Sgt. Darnell Dobson said their accomplishment would not be possible without the help of Maj. Rashida Brown, Staff Sgt. Michelia Rivera-Acosta, Staff Sgt. Kymyenna Mitchell, Tech. Sgt. Cameron Chicote and Senior Airman Dervail Chrislande.
For 2022, the council said they have several goals including building a closer relationship with the public schools, developing a database where people can report both negative and positive incidents, and providing unconscious bias training for everyone across the installation.
“I think the biggest thing for us is we want people to understand that it’s ok to have the conversation with each other,” said Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Fredeling, D&I team member. “Some of these conversations are sometimes difficult, but we can show each other that we respect each other and we’re willing to learn. People just want to feel like they’re included and once you do that, you create a powerful team.”
The team is focusing their efforts this month on learning how to present the unconscious bias training, then Feb. 7, the 10th Missile Squadron will be the first group to receive it. Anyone who would like to sign up their squadron or work center for the training can reach out to any member of the D&I council for scheduling.
“We want people to get to the point where they’re comfortable in asking questions and comfortable with learning about other people, other cultures, other religions and ideas, and other races,” said Melissa Laferriere, community volunteer coordinator. “There’s so much to learn and we have so much history and we’d love to share it.”
Starting in February, the team would like to encourage everyone who is available – active duty, civilian and dependent, to attend the monthly D&I meetings to share ideas, ask questions and get involved.
“We’re trying to set up that Striker mentality, that Striker way of life, so I think that’s being more all-inclusive and that’s what we’re doing,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ingle, special observance committee manager.