EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
I sent this message out to all of the Team Eglin commanders yesterday, and I hope it has made it to you.
Many events have driven change in our military over the years. Even in the short time I’ve been in the Air Force, I’ve seen 9/11 and a pandemic change how we fight and conduct ourselves in radical ways. Throughout that time, however extreme the catalysts of change, I’ve been guided by integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do, the Air Force’s core values. Today we’re faced with another catalyst for change, which is the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Together, we need to have a conversation about his death, the unrest and pain in our country, and what all of this means for our lives and our service.
Our integrity as members of the greatest armed forces requires us to examine critically the truth about diversity in our ranks and what it means to each and every one of us. As much as we put a premium on diversity and herald it as a legitimate strength, we don’t all come to the fight with the same perspective or the same experiences in our lives. Some of the biases we carry with us, whether conscious or not, are a weakness that it’s time to change. To effect that change, we need to have a conversation.
Our service is to ideals that we swear to uphold, and that service is delivered by us daily regardless of the ethnicity, religion, identity, background, or type of uniform of those who serve. The Air Force’s core value of service before self urges us to put our selfish drive aside, but beyond that, it’s time to examine the self we each bring to service. It’s time to talk about what our service can gain from a better understanding of every self among us. When we listen to each other and embrace the views of every member of the team, we become stronger together. To gain that strength, it’s time to have a conversation.
Excellence doesn’t mean only that we win our battles. It means that we do so decisively because we understand each other and maneuver based on our understanding of one another. It means we include the perspectives of all among our ranks, which are diverse and many if we take the time to look. To understand each other, we need to take the time to have some tough conversations.
I’m asking all of you to talk about the tragedy in Minneapolis that has led to so much outcry. I’m asking you to have a discussion with each other about how we can leverage the strength of our diversity and build a culture of inclusiveness to be a stronger force. It won’t be easy, but our integrity, service, and excellence are counting on it.
I directed 96th Test Wing leadership to engage in discussions with all of our Airmen this week, and I encourage you to do the same in your organizations. Chief Auger and I, along with Cecil Williams, my Director of Diversity and Inclusion, are also rolling out additional outlets and tools to have these discussions. Finally, I will be directly engaging with my Airmen at all levels, dedicating time to listen to them and to make myself better able to serve them and to improve our force. Again, I request you do the same.
It’s time to engage. Thank you all for serving here.