Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Strength in Diversity: Chief Marler's perspective

by Chief Master Sgt. Vincent Marler
48th Fighter Wing command chief

6/26/2014 - ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- I've served in our great Air Force for 28 years now.

My Air Force career has taken my family and me all over the United States and Europe and a few other places to boot, expanding our horizons beyond anything I could have imagined as a young Airman starting my career in 1986.

However, the expansion of my horizons was not because of all the cool places I've lived or visited, it was because of all the fantastic people we met in those cool places.

Having grown up in a small, rural Missouri town, I would have to say I was somewhat sheltered when it came to worldly knowledge. For me, my small town experience was the same as everybody else's in the world.

My life experience was my frame of reference for everything -- I didn't know what I didn't know. I love my hometown and all the great people there, but looking back through the years I can see now how fortunate I am to have been exposed, throughout my career, to so many cultures, races, religions, nationalities and, probably most importantly, different ways of thinking.

I've learned to really appreciate what different ways of thinking and life experiences brings to the accomplishment of the mission. I've learned to be on the lookout for those diverse experiences amongst our Air Force members and to hopefully capitalize on a fresh set of ideas and innovations that our members bring to the fight.

Diversity is absolutely our varying backgrounds, race, gender, religion, socio-economic status and other life experiences, but it's also the diversity our Airmen bring from different assignments and major commands, stateside experience vs. overseas experience, someone with special-duty assignments or someone who has headquarters or staff experience.

Diversity is Angela Cline-Upton, a civilian spouse of an active duty member working in the housing office and doing amazing things to take care of our dorm residents. As a spouse, she brings a wealth of knowledge to what it takes to support our young Airmen and give them a place to call home.

Diversity is Tech. Sgt. Ricardo Anzoátegui, who was born in Mexico, immigrated to the U.S. and learned to speak English by watching soap operas on television. He was also one of the best tower air traffic controllers I've seen and filled a vital position as a Spanish-speaking controller in Spain.

Diversity is Master Sgt. Jose Alfonso, who is tri-lingual and one of the best training managers I've known. His language skills were critical when it came to working with and training with our Italian partners.

Diversity is our new civil engineer commander, Maj. Jonathon Byrnes, who took a quick look at our barrier plan during a recent exercise and proposed a new plan that would eliminate a traffic bottleneck while enhancing security. He provided a new perspective that left everyone else saying, "Why didn't we see that previously?" His diverse background and expertise brought new insight and innovative thinking.

I have come to seek diversity because it is a strength on which we must capitalize as an Air Force -- it's an asset with unlimited potential, but it must be cultivated as well. One of the 48th Fighter Wing's priorities is to strengthen the team.

Part of strengthening the team comes from developing talents from the full spectrum of assets, with diversity at the top of the list. We have talents and fresh ideas from all walks of life coming through our gates every day.

It's the young, first-term Airman on his or her first duty assignment. It's the experienced Guardian Angel with multiple deployments. It's the new commander who has a new perspective.

It's on us: commanders, senior NCOs and NCOs, to identify and exploit our diversity. I can't tell you where the next great idea or innovation will come from, but I can tell you it will come to light a lot quicker if we seek it out.

It's on leadership at every level to cultivate diversity by getting to know their Airmen and capitalizing on their ideas and innovative thinking. I challenge each and every leader to continue to find the diversity and use it to our advantage -- the mission is counting on it!

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