JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. – Diversity, equity and inclusion are at the core of military values and precisely what they defend.
That is according to California Rep. Mark Takano, who spoke during a Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, panel discussion June 20.
Takano emphasized the sacrifices made by service members while serving during a time that devotion may not have been reciprocated.
“I talk about the sacrifices of service members who serve with courage and passion for a country that did not always love them in turn at the time,” said Takano. “Your job is to create the space for Americans to serve in the military without discrimination, without harassment and to value all Americans’ contributions.”
Airmen with the Diversity and Inclusion Office at the Air National Guard Readiness Center extended the invitation to Takano, who is the first openly gay person of color to be elected to Congress and serves as the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
The panel discussion was in recognition of Pride Month, a June observance that honors the historic riots of June 1969 at New York City’s Stonewall Inn, which played a vital role in propelling the global gay rights movement forward. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prohibited gays, lesbians and bisexuals from openly serving in the armed forces, was repealed by Congress in 2010, effective in 2011.
Takano emphasized the significance of holding individuals accountable for derogatory and abusive behavior toward others and affirmed that diversity, equity and inclusion should permeate all areas of military service.
Acknowledging the gradual nature of change, Takano commended service members for facilitating progress by embracing change and nurturing a dynamic force through recruitment, development and retention.
“You do that every time you take in a group of young people and you make them into service members,” said Takano. “You make them more disciplined. You give them more capacity to be able to make the right choices. And so, ultimately, I think you all have to believe in change as well.”
Service members should feel empowered to openly express their identities and address their challenges without fear of discrimination or retaliation, said Takano.
Senior Master Sgt. Heather Anderson, noncommissioned officer in charge, Organizational Assessment National Guard Bureau/Air National Guard Manpower and Personnel, said it was important for leaders to monitor congressional activity that holistically impacts the lives of their Airmen and Soldiers.
“Diversity encompasses not only the LGBTQ+ community but also different cultural backgrounds,” said Anderson. “When we blend these different perspectives, we gain the opportunity to learn from each other and grow collectively. It is vital to recognize that our diverse backgrounds contribute equally to the mission.
“Our success is driven by our people — embracing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences contributes significant value to the force by fostering enhanced problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.”
The congressman reminded the Airmen of their duty to their state and country.
“You’re defending American ideals and it’s important that you continue to instill the leadership and ideals of the nation in the service members that serve our military,” Takano said. “I would say those ideals are summed up in the title of the theme, “Equality Without Exception, Pride in All Who Serve.”