Team 432 reinvigorates Diversity & Inclusion Council

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Omari Bernard
  • 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing

The reinvigorated 432nd Wing Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Council, an all-volunteer organization composed of varying ranks and duties, held its first meeting to establish D&I vision, and forecast initiatives, Jan. 22, 2021.

Appointment of the newest D&I Council was announced Dec. 30, 2020. Since then, they have consulted with 432nd WG leadership, remodeled their vision, and gathered 40 Airmen to serve as unit representatives to keep a pulse on underlying concerns across the wing.

The origins of the 432nd WG D&I Council began in January 2019, as a group of Airmen called for volunteers to dedicate time and energy to the celebration of cultures, observances and experiences of every make-and-manner of Airman.

Their efforts were successful in bringing attention and representation to diverse groups of Airmen within the Home of the Hunters. However, steadily through 2020, amid cross-talks, internal reviews, town halls, and policy updates - 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing leaders began examining what a wing-level D&I Council could truly be capable of.

Best synopsized by the U.S. Air Force D&I office: “The challenges we face today are far too serious, and the implications of failure far too great, for our Air Force to do less than fully and inclusively leverage our nation’s greatest strength—our remarkably diverse people.”

With time, deliberation, and dedicated Airmen taking the wheel, the Diversity and Inclusion Council has been revitalized.

Their goal?

To foster transparent dialogue between Airmen and leaders. The team also actively seeks ways to demonstrate action in addressing the concerns of our Hunter Family, while celebrating the diversity within our ranks. 

Capt. Alberto and Tech. Sgt. Otis, the president and vice-president of the D&I council, both share a passion to dispel adversity and disparity in the workforce.

As Airmen of varying backgrounds they understand the Air Force’s need for diversity of experience and perspective, and plan to bring their own diversity of thought to the Council right away.

 “My first language is Spanish, then English, and then aviation,” Alberto said. “My father was in the Army, and I was born and raised in Puerto Rico.”

Alberto is husband to a wife, and father to a daughter. He studied accounting and came into the Air Force wanting to fly, while overcoming language-barrier obstacles along the way.

Otis is also married, to a husband, and his career began with enlistment in late 2003. Despite being happily married for five years, his sexual orientation was a side of himself kept hidden from family and friends for the first 23 years of his life because where he grew up being gay was not accepted.

“I saw a lot of division passed [down] from generation to generation,” said Otis.

Alberto and Otis’ experiences moved them to pay-forward the kindnesses experienced through their career; building a culture of acceptance, while opening a dialogue between Airmen and leadership at every level.

“I was blessed to be stationed here at Creech, and help warfighters on the ground [who] need constant air superiority,” Alberto said.  “I’ve also had amazing experiences with great leadership who have given me a hand, and told me not to use my English barrier as a crutch, but use it to excel.”

Throughout his 17-year career in the Air Force, Otis has seen progress made toward diversity and inclusion, specifically through changes like the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” He also met Airmen who vice-versa broadened his scope of cultural understanding..

“Joining the military really helped me get out and meet other people from different backgrounds, cultures and religions,” Otis said. “I was meeting people who changed my opinions, and made me feel like it was OK to be who I am today.”

Alberto said he wants to develop and leave the 432nd WG D&I Council as a staple of positive action, and enable its self-sustainment and growth.

“I want the D&I council to be there for our fellow Airmen,” Alberto said. “To be approachable enough for Airmen to share those stories, or questions they might be uncomfortable with sharing.”

To encourage trust among the ranks early on the Council launched a survey system for Airmen to submit information, without fear of judgement or retribution, about recommendations or issues they’d like to bring to Council and leadership attention.

“Commanders should view the D&I as a useful tool,” Otis said. “We want to ensure there is a clear and open line of communication, and discern the root of any issues to keep it from recurring.”

Like with any organization or policy, change has the potential to take time, but determined people of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds, can pave the way for future generations.

“I’m a father who wants to ensure my daughter growing up doesn’t face the same issues I did,” said Alberto. “As a member of the D&I council and a part of the Hunter Family, we are here for you.”

Learn more about the U.S. Air Force Diversity & Inclusion Office

Help improve the Council and Installation by taking the 432nd WG D&I Survey