What is Project One?

  • Published
  • By Col. Jeffrey Holland
  • 75th Air Base Wing Commander

Combat readiness is a team sport, and we need all Airmen performing their best so we can “Fly, fight and win…Airpower anytime, anywhere.” When the nation needs us, we won’t have time to get ready; we must be ready. Creating and sustaining the everyday readiness we need is hard. It is easy for life’s struggles to distract Airmen from maximizing their potential. The challenges they face increase when they feel they’re facing them alone. Project One increases readiness by strengthening Airmen’s sense of belonging and community.

The need for belonging and community Project One addresses is typical of every Air Force installation. However, Project One exists at Hill Air Force Base because Utah offers our Airmen and their families an experience different than most locations. In many ways, the experience is better: world-class outdoor activities, access to high-level professional and collegiate sports teams, access to nationally ranked universities, unrivaled spouse employment support, incredibly patriotic communities, and several best in the nation military- and veteran- friendly policies and programs. However, many Airmen’s experiences are not as good as we would expect. 

Airmen of color face unique challenges in our communities. Black and African American Airmen assigned to Hill Air Force Base stand out when they leave the base—only 1% of the local population look like them. It is common for our Airmen to feel like they don’t belong or aren’t supported, especially when they encounter racism, intolerance, or ignorance. Hispanic and Asian and Pacific Islander Airmen may have a less challenging time finding communities that look like them, yet they still face real challenges from racism, intolerance, an ignorance. And it is not just those that look different that face challenges in feeling accepted and part of the community as our LGBTQ+ Airmen and Airmen of different faiths and different cultures all find challenges in our communities. 

In some neighborhoods and communities, our Airmen don’t face discrimination or harassment, but still struggle with acceptance. Neighborhoods may not be familiar with receiving and welcoming new families, particularly ones of different backgrounds and experiences. Neighbors may make assumptions about newcomers based on appearance or judge them harshly because of different habits and hobbies. Children on sports teams and clubs may not understand why they should let a new kid join them. The cumulative effect of such behaviors can result in a feeling of exclusion for many of our Airmen and their families. 

The tragedy is most of the community would not knowingly commit or condone the behaviors that weaken our Airmen’s sense of belonging, that make them, and their families, feel unwelcome or unsupported, and that attack our combat readiness. Collectively, we—Hill Air Force Base and our communities—have often allowed the negatives to dominate our Airmen’s experiences. We allowed indifference, hate, and fear to outpace our investment in belonging and community. We tolerated behaviors we shouldn’t have, and we kept quiet when we should have spoken up. Project One will help us build relationships and communities that help every individual achieve their potential.

Our sense of belonging and community extends beyond how we look or the way we identify ourselves. We also find it through shared interests and experiences. When we join with people in pursuit of shared passions, we forge supportive and enduring relationships as we do the things we love. In recent years, we had to rely on the internet to connect people as we purposefully stayed apart. However, we’ve learned that relationships and connection shaped through in-person engagements carry a power far greater than those built on a virtual foundation. We must deliberately drive engagement and increase our opportunities to create connections. Please join us in Project One!