Equal Opportunity helps Airmen reach potential

  • Published
  • By Capt. Elizabeth Caraway
  • 445th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Recent national news has been filled with polarizing social issues. The divisive attitudes that have taken over the headlines should stay out of Air Force work centers, said Maj. Audric Bills, 445th Airlift Wing Equal Opportunity director.

"Regardless of your personal feelings, these types of discussions can cause mission degradation," he said, citing current events involving race and sexuality.

It is against Air Force policy for any Airman, military or civilian, to unlawfully discriminate against, harass, intimidate or threaten another Airman on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, or sexual orientation. In the case of civilian employees, age and handicapping conditions are also outlined. The Equal Opportunity program addresses these protected categories, as well as sexual harassment.

"We are here to make sure Airmen are judged by their overall performance," said Tech. Sgt. Jaimeece Robinson, 445th Equal Opportunity advisor. "By ensuring the work environment is free from personal, social, or institutional barriers, we enable Airmen to reach their highest potential."

In addition to providing large-scale briefings on the program during wing commander's calls, EO offers unit-level briefings on sexual harassment and human relations.  They also get out among the units to have impromptu discussions with Airmen.

"It's during these out-and-abouts that we get to see the real work environments and speak with Airmen freely about their experiences and let them know we're available if they encounter issues," said Bills. "When you allow your work environment to be conducive to racial slurs or sexual jokes, people in the unit view it as an area where rules don't apply and it escalates. It moves from jokes to harassment to assault."

Airmen who would like to file an EO complaint have two options--informal and formal. Formal complaints go directly to the wing commander. Informal complaints may be handled at the unit level.  EO can also act in a mediation role, called alternative dispute resolution.

"During alternative dispute resolution, we come together and try to solve the issue at the lowest level," said Bills.

Violators may face a series of consequences, from disciplinary paperwork to losing a stripe or being removed from the work station.

One simple action every wing member can take to help is completing the yearly climate survey.

"The survey is an anonymous way to hold leaders accountable," said Bills. "It's a way to let us know the truth about what's going on in your unit."

The goal is for the 445th to be able to perform its mission to the highest possible standard.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recently said, "The Department of Defense has made a lasting commitment to living the values we defend--to treating everyone equally--because we need to be a meritocracy. We have to focus relentlessly on our mission, which mean the thing that matters most about a person is what they can contribute to national defense."

If you would like to discuss equal opportunity concerns or sexual harassment with the 445th Equal Opportunity office, call (937) 257-0237. The Air Force Discrimination and Sexual Harassment Hotline is 1-888-231-4058.