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The role of the new UTANG Diversity Council

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Utah Air National Guard has recently formed its first Diversity Council, and is now scheduled to meet quarterly to problem-solve issues, and to discuss proactive measures that can be taken to ensure diversity within the UTANG.

The triplex role of the council is to assist the command structure in evaluating base policies and practices to ensure they represent diversity, to train Guardsmen on diversity awareness, and to help the base reach its diversity potential.

The council aims to elevate the diversity level on base, so that it mirrors the diversity level of the surrounding community - within a 50-mile radius of the base.

"Research on other bases show that diversity increases problem resolution, process development, quality improvement and team work," said Major Scott Scharman, the base Equal Opportunity director who also serves as an advisor on the council. "This, in turn, increases morale and creates a shop that produces more mission effectiveness."

The hope of the council is to have increased communication on base about diversity so that more people are open and aware of it.

"Just accepting that people are different is not enough," said Major Scharman. "The desire to get different input is what makes the difference. If we had a military of cloned people, those people might problem solve issues the same way. Diversity brings new background, experience and ideas to issue solving."

"Also, diversity means more than the traditional roles of race, gender or religion," Major Scharman further explained. "It can be about where you were born, and how you were raised. It can be family background, or work experience. There are many things that make us different from each other."

The National Guard has recognized that a key aspect of society's togetherness and esprit de corps is inclusiveness. Most bases now have a diversity council and have seen a high amount of success. The UTANG's Diversity Council, which has been modeled after similar programs, was chartered by the Assistant Adjutant General of the UTANG, Brig. Gen. David M. Hooper.

"In order to be proactive, and take advantage of all the diversity, we have to be able to reach outside of our normal practices." said Major Scharman. "The benefit of having a diversity council, with representatives who brainstorm ideas, is that it forces us to take that proactive step."

Senior Master Sgt. Burke Baker, Human Resource and Diversity Council advisor, explained the importance of the council and diversity in the Guard.

"The council's goal of diversity is to create a workplace that is empowering, productive and inclusive," said Sergeant Baker. "It is about recognizing the differences and qualities of each and every person who is a member of this base, and using those attributes to create a cohesive, unified and interconnected unit where we all can share in each other's wisdom and knowledge."

"Diversity is a means to get to the strongest and best team for the Guard's purposes." added Sergeant Baker. "It is a tool for readiness, not a social concept."

The council has advisors from a vast resource of areas like the command staff, the Equal Opportunity office, the Legal office, as well as Human Resources, Recruiting and Retention, Public Affairs, and a Chaplain. The council is still looking to fill seats, and is asking for two volunteers from each unit to become a representative on the council. Seats should include both enlisted members and officers, both traditional and fulltime employees. So any UTANG members interested in joining the council should contact the council chairman, Human Resource director Chief Master Sgt. Michael Edwards.

"This is a great opportunity for anyone," said Sergeant Baker, "even if you don't have experience with cultural or organizational diversity. This can be a real career broadening, and personal development opportunity."