Office of Equity and Inclusion Reflecting a New Approach to Diversity

Sixteen Army National Guard Soldiers of the 247th Quartermaster Company each receive a certificate of achievement for going above and beyond during an awards ceremony at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, April 2019. Army National Guard photo by SGT Roger Jackson

In a recent departmental change, the National Guard Bureau (NGB) has combined its diversity and equal opportunity offices, thus founding a new office designation—the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

According to NGB, the office is tasked with utilizing diversity and inclusion research and best practices to offer related guidance and support, not only to National Guard Joint Leadership, but also directly to unit commanders. 

“[The office] ensures that our organizational environment is agile and inclusive, positioning us to recognize, harness and leverage the full capabilities of every Soldier and Airman,” said Col Aimee Storm, chief of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “If Guard members feel like they are not part of the team, it will make it very difficult to come into work and give 100 percent.”

The new office merger is designed to increase efficiencies within the two arms of the office and emulates other Department of Defense organization configurations, said Col Storm. 

“This approach is designed to improve performance and functionality of the two distinctly different, but interrelated areas of work,” she said. She expects combining Guard Soldiers and Airmen will result in improved service from the office as a consequence of the changes. 

Col Storm compared the union to the combination of physical health care service and mental health care service with the same medical office. It results in a more holistic offering to clients. 

“In my mind, the patient in [that] metaphor is not the employee, but the organization,” she said. “Equity and inclusion can improve the health of the organization when we work in concert.”

Col Storm noted how the unification of the two Services should encourage National Guard members to consider diversity as mission-essential, not merely a human resources goal to be checked off on a list of objectives. Recognizing diversity as fundamental, Col Storm said she hopes more Guard Soldiers and Airmen will understand that guaranteeing equal opportunity goes far beyond the necessary regulations that combat potential discrimination. She noted that these issues are not just talking points.

“[Equity also means the Guard] ensures every service member has equitable access to resources, training and professional development opportunities,” she said.

Recognizing equity and inclusion for present and future generations of Guard Soldiers also brings attention to how the Guard’s composition impacts the readiness and lethality of the force overall. New Soldiers and Airmen bring new strengths and skillsets to the Service. Leveraging those strengths can make for a better Guard.

“We continue to be in a ‘battle for talent,’” Col Storm noted. “We must ensure we are able to recruit and retain the best our Nation has to offer. The recruitable population has evolved and the communities we both represent and serve have evolved, as well. In order to maintain resilience, agility and effectiveness, we need to take a comprehensive approach to developing our service men and women and organizational leadership for a high-performing, actively engaged formation.”

Col Storm went on to say that the new office will increase NGB’s ability to offer support to individual Guard members, offering policy guidance on both diversity and equal opportunity subjects. 

At the end of the day, she said, both the new office and its new name reflect a change in approach regarding equity and inclusion in the National Guard.

“We wanted to concentrate on things that help our folks meet their readiness [requirements] and meet the mission,” Col Storm explained. “So, we chose [the equity and inclusion] terms as being the most important part for our office. This gives us enhanced synergy and push.”

An example of NGB’s ongoing effort to promote diversity and equal opportunity is the annual NGB Excellence in Diversity Awards. The event recognizes specific Guard members and units for executing diversity and inclusion programs. 

“It helps us identify and highlight best practices from [Guard units],” said Andrea Browne-Phillips, a branch chief with the equity and inclusion office. 

Phillips also noted that the awards serve to set the pace for other units around the country, informing the definition of what “good” looks like for the National Guard in terms of diversity.

“It’s like the old saying that ‘two minds are better than one’. Well, two diverse minds are better than one. We meet the mission when we have folks who think differently,” said Col Storm.  l

NGB’s Office of Equity and Inclusion supervises the creation and implementation of diversity and inclusion programs, policies and training, and engagement across the following areas:

1. Implementing the Strategic Framework for the NGB Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.

2. Developing programs and solutions for reducing and removing identified barriers that inhibit achievement and sustainment of diversity and inclusion within the National Guard Bureau and the National Guard.

3. Assessing and reporting on effectiveness of diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives.

4. Developing plans and programs for acquiring and managing resources necessary for implementation of NGB diversity and inclusion initiatives.

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