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BUILDING TRUST IN A TIME OF UNCERTAINTY

Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee

Lt. Gen. Richard Scobee

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. --

"Discussing our different life experiences and viewpoints can be tough, uncomfortable and therefore often avoided…We can no longer walk by this problem."

-General David L. Goldfein, CSAF

The ongoing pandemic and the civil unrest across the nation have given us pause to reflect on the continuing racial inequality in our society and our Air Force.

Recently, the Command Chief and I were able to have a candid conversation about racial inequities with a small group of our Reserve Citizen Airmen stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. I am personally grateful that those Airmen trusted us enough to provide us their perspectives on the difficult issue of racial inequity.

We encourage leaders at all levels to demonstrate caring and build trust by engaging in tough but crucial conversations about our values, focusing on inclusion, especially with regard to race. It is hard to have these discussions, yet respectful and apolitical conversations will forge a path toward positive change.

This is also a time for self-reflection and understanding that we may have unconscious bias.

The Department of the Air Force is taking a hard internal look at racial injustice. In addition to this review, the Air Force Reserve will conduct our own review to assess potential discriminatory practices within the command.

The Command Chief and I are committed to both objectivity and transparency in this process. As an organization, we have already appointed advisors to the Air Force Inspector General’s Racial Diversity Review. We have also implemented unconscious bias training for our commanders.

Further, the Command Chief is heavily involved in a think tank with the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force focused on inclusion and fair treatment of all Airmen.

While these measures are a start, we cannot be successful without your help. Many of you have already been asked to provide feedback directly to the Inspector General’s office via an anonymous survey. I encourage absolute candor in giving this feedback, as it will provide insight into our blind spots.

Racial disparity in both disciplinary actions and career development opportunities undermines both institutional and interpersonal trust, which underpin mission success. Addressing these issues is central to one of our Air Force Reserve priorities: Developing Resilient Leaders. Systemic racial disparities undermine the ability for even the most determined leaders to build trust within their units. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed many issues surrounding racial inequality; however, it did not prevent continuing racial injustices from occurring in our society.

This is a complex problem without simple or short-term solutions. Instead, it is a call to continually commit ourselves to improve the environment in which we serve, to include all Citizen Airmen.

To help your unit engage in critical conversations, our chief Diversity and Inclusion officer provides Equal Opportunity facilitator training. Further, as a part of our commitment to transparency, we have launched the “Share Your Story” campaign to encourage Airmen to share their experiences with discrimination and what we did to address it – or what we can do to better address it in the future. Contact your local Public Affairs office if you want to share your story.

The rifts in society serve as fracture points for adversaries that seek to exploit our division and we must address them decisively. In the face of civil unrest and a global pandemic, you have shown resiliency, innovation, professionalism and courage. We must now show empathy.

Many members of our Reserve family are anxious right now. Reaching out, listening and allowing your fellow Citizen Airmen to express their emotions is critical toward building the trust necessary to defend against those who see this moment of division as an opportunity.

The Command Chief and I are proud to serve with each of you and have the utmost confidence that you will continue to rise to meet future challenges.