Posted on May 4, 2015
AirForce Times
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From: Air Force Times

WASHINGTON — The senior leadership of the Air Force remains largely white and male despite an emphasis on diversity in the service and throughout the military, according to data and interviews with service leaders.

The Air Force has 280 generals, but just 18 of them belong to minority groups. That includes two Hispanic officers, or less than 1% of the total. The 13 African-American generals make up 4% of the Air Force's general officer corps.

The Pentagon's other branches, including the Army, share the same struggle to diversify their forces, a priority of Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. A key concern for the Army resides in the lack of minority officers leading its combat battalions and brigades. That's where lieutenant colonels and colonels are groomed for top leadership jobs, indicating the lack of diversity among combat leaders could persist for years.

The Air Force has a similar problem among its wing commanders. Commanding a wing is considered by the Air Force to being a near-prerequisite to becoming a general. Of the 135 wings, there are four black officers in charge, according to Air Force data, or less than 3%. In all, the current class of wing commanders is 93% white and 91% male.

Air Force Secretary Deborah James, in a statement to USA TODAY, acknowledged the problem.

"We value diversity," James said. "However, the statistics tell a different story. As a service we need to do better at achieving greater diversity of thought and experiences in leadership positions."

The Air Force, with few exceptions, traditionally has drawn its top leaders from combat pilots, especially those who fly fighter jets. Its chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, is an F-16 and A-10 pilot. Gen. Philip Breedlove, Supreme Allied commander in Europe and leader of European Command, is also an F-16 pilot.

To be sure, not all of the top Air Force leaders are white men, or even pilots. Its No. 2 officer, Gen. Larry Spencer, the vice chief of staff, is an African American. Two women are four-star officers: Gen. Lori Robinson, who commands Pacific Air Forces; and Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger, who leads materiel command.

But the surest path to the top, as in the Army, is leading front-line combat units.

"We're not that much different than the Army in that the combat arms part of our Air Force has traditionally been where we have drawn our most senior leaders," said Gen. Darren McDew, the four-star officer in charge of Air Force Air Mobility Command, a C-17 pilot and an African American. "It's because those combat arms have a natural link to the operational part that is the core of the service."

The Air Force's 9,000 combat pilots are at least 87% white. More officers declined to identify their race, 5%, than the next highest minority group, African Americans, at 3%. Nearly 94% are men. The military, as a whole, is dominated by men at 85% of its personnel.

WHY DIVERSITY MATTERS

James and Welsh issued a memo to airmen on why greater diversity is needed in the service. It also outlined several initiatives aimed at expanding the ranks of women and minorities in the Air Force.

"This approach is necessary because our increasingly diverse citizenry places a special trust in us and we must keep that trust by ensuring our Air Force is representative of the best of the populace from which we draw our considerable strength," the memo says.

Beyond better representing the United States, the Air Force views diversity as necessary for effectiveness. It loses out on talented minorities and women when they're underrepresented, said Chevalier Cleaves, the Air Force director of diversity and inclusion and a retired KC-135 tanker pilot.

"Diversity and inclusion are national security imperatives," Cleaves said. "So we must succeed. There is no second place for us. In order to do that, we need to make sure that we leverage the talent of all Americans, not just some."

For McDew, diversity of experience and thought lead to better decisions.

"In the 33 years I've been doing this, I've found you get a better solution if the people around the table aren't all mimicking back to you what you've said," he said. "What I want is a group of people who will come at it from a different angle, who will challenge what I'm thinking. And force me to think differently. I believe that's what diversity gets you."

WHY FEW MINORITY PILOTS

McDew cites several factors limiting minority interest in joining the Air Force and the military in general. Among them: teachers, coaches and clergy who don't view military service as an option for young minority students. Members of Congress often don't take advantage of the opportunity to nominate high school minority students to the military academies.

The lack of role models — the few top black officers — can also discourage potential officers from joining the military, he said.

McDew said his path to senior leadership is instructive. For him, the military was a natural fit. "I was born an airman," he said. His father was an Air Force master sergeant, the family moved around the country and overseas to his posts.

"I grew up seeing a very diverse Air Force, because our enlisted force is quite diverse," McDew said. "It's actually quite representative, I believe, of America."

Air Force enlisted personnel are much more diverse than their officer counterparts. About 70% of enlisted airmen are white and 15% African American; nearly 19% of its enlisted ranks are women.

Gifted in math and science, and encouraged by a teacher, McDew won a four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship.

"Then I go to a military school that is deeply rooted in the old South, the Virginia Military Institute," McDew said. "When I attended, they still played Dixie. They still waved the rebel flag. Out of my 420 classmates, I can't believe there were 20 of us who were not white males when I started. When we graduated, there were three of us."

That same "tyranny of small numbers" of women and minority officers exists today, McDew said. "For every single person you lose, you may lose 25% You may lose a whole cohort."

Changing the face of the Air Force will take years, he said.

INITIATIVES FOR DIVERSE LEADERS

James has announced several initiatives this spring, including identifying enlisted airmen for officer-training school who show the "ability to lead in a diverse and inclusive Air Force culture."

To keep talented women in the service, the Air Force is considering extending the period in which they can defer deployments after having a baby from six months to one year. Women with four to seven years in the Air Force leave the service at twice the rate of men, often citing family and deployment concerns.

"The bottom line for me in this is leadership and developing the next generation of leaders," McDew said. "I believe that cohort of leaders ought to look like America, and I believe that it can."

http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/news/nation/2015/05/03/air-force-diversity/26731691/
Posted in these groups: Usaf_logo Air ForceDiversity Diversity
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SMSgt Maintenance Superintendent
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I am a firm believer that the most qualified person should do a job, I don't care what color or gender they are. If they are the most qualified person they should do the job. If commanders have trouble relating to their subordinates and that hampers mission accomplishment then they are not the most qualified.

Do not force people into a job that they are not qualified for because you want diversity. That is setting a person up for failure which is something we should no be in the habit of doing.Diversity is defined as the differences in all of us, because people are the same color or gender doesn't mean there is no diversity, could there be more absolutely!

Let's take gender and race off of all records in the military and hirer folks for very important jobs based solely on the results of their performance.
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MSgt Steven Holt
MSgt Steven Holt
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Well said SMSgt (Join to see). Time and time again we've proven shoving someone into a position simply to check a box usually results in disaster for all involved.
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Capt Mark Strobl
Capt Mark Strobl
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There are some Senators and Congressmen (or, Congress People maybe?), that are looking at the demographics, who would disagree with you. I don't.
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SMSgt Fuels Superintendent
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SMSgt Petersee, thank you for your wisdom and advice. I am in total agreement with performance and placing proficient people in proper positions.
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Lt Col North Korea Desk Officer
Lt Col (Join to see)
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I agree with your thoughts. In order to ensure performance is the only factor, we should hide any gender / race related aspects of the evaluation / records during a promotion board and allow people to be promoted purely based on their merits.

On a side note, we have to remember, that we are a all volunteer force. What do the diversity numbers look like on the recruiting side? Does the demographics of people joining match up with demographics at the various levels of leadership?
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MAJ Robert (Bob) Petrarca
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The people qualified are the people that get the jobs. Articles like this promote racism, not diversity because they insinuate that there is a problem that simply does not exist.

This IMHO is the rhetoric that keeps getting us as a country into trouble. Everyone keeps trying to crank out employment and diversity statistics into percentages of populations and ethnic groups as if there should be a magic formula that has to be adhered to so that the world is perfect WHY??

The inferences that can be made here are that diversity is more important than qualifications, every employment path should have ample slots that equal the exact ratio of the population and that there is some injustice because of this perceived diversity "issue"
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Sgt Ivan Radusinovic
Sgt Ivan Radusinovic
4 y
Exactly what I feel, and was going to write, sir. The best qualified person should do the job, not this or that "green" person.........
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TSgt Joshua Copeland
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It takes an average of 20 years to "grow" a Full Col. Your new Col today came in in 1995. We didn't even allow Woman to be Fighter Pilots until 1993! I would like to see how those GO/Col numbers stack up to the numbers from 1995? I am pretty sure they are likely significantly better in the area of diversity with regards to rank, race and gender. As each generation sees a more and more diverse force, it encourages folks from minority backgrounds to join as they have seen folks from their race/gender succeed.


Unlike our civilian counterparts, we cant just "hired" mid and senior level leadership off the streets with in turn makes our growth to a more diverse force much slower.

So are we on par with the national demographic? No! I don't think we will be in my life time. The military is still seen by many to be a "males" job. Getting over that gender role assignment can be done pretty quickly, but would require a nationalized conscription program similar to some other nations that would force it at least in the lower ranks, which at some point has the potential to trickle up to the more senior positions for those that choose to stay in.

*Disclaimer: These are my own views, not the AF's official position.
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TSgt Joshua Copeland
TSgt Joshua Copeland
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I have long been an advocate to bring WO's in to technical fields like Cyber (Comm), Intel, Contracting, Mx, and drone (hard sell).
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MSgt Steven Holt
MSgt Steven Holt
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If I could have went WO in my AFSC (intel) I would most likely still be active duty instead of retired.
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Col Joseph Lenertz
Col Joseph Lenertz
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TSgt Joshua Copeland , Great point on the timing issue. Looking at General Officer's diversity is like looking at a star 25 light years away...you are looking at the past, long ago and measuring it by today's standards.
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MSgt Michael Webster
MSgt Michael Webster
4 y
Actually the civilian side suffers the same problems with diversity. Not enough qualified candidates to select from to be representative of society's diversity mix.
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