Air Force Brags About Packing ‘Diversity’ And ‘Equity’ Programming Into Calendar: ‘Soared To New Heights’

Screenshot / DAF 2023 DEIA Conference- Day 3 / DC, UNITED STATES 09.20.2023 / Video by Senior Airman Dustin Braaten, James Jones and Airman 1st Class Tyler Vinup / DVIDS /

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • The Air Force touted at least 11 events in three months focused around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) or featuring teams from the service’s DEI branch in a newsletter covering the third quarter of 2023.
  • Air Force DEI events culminated with the second annual Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Conference from Sept. 28 to Sept. 20, the newsletter said.
  • “In the vast expanse of air and space, diverse perspectives and inclusive strategies are paramount,” Marianne Malizia, director of the Air Force’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion, said.

The Air Force released a newsletter bragging about the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programming packed into its summer calendar, including 11 events in the third quarter of 2023.

Marianne Malizia, director of the Air Force’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (SAF/DI) highlighted the Air Force’s second annual Juneteenth celebration, LGBT+ representation at recruiting events and the second annual Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Conference, in her introduction to the newsletter, dated September. The service’s DEI agenda “soared to new heights” in 2023 through holding or participating in major events, the newsletter said, as the Department of Defense (DOD) on the whole seeks to graft a DEI element into all parts of the enterprise.

“This quarter, the DAF has soared to new heights, continuously demonstrating its unyielding commitment to fostering a diverse, inclusive, equitable and accessible environment,” Marianne Malizia, Director, Office of Diversity and Inclusion (SAF/DI), wrote in the newsletter’s opening message. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Air Force Touts Plans To Track Promotions From A ‘Race, Equity And Gender Standpoint’)

In August, the Indigenous Nations Equality Team, one of the Air Force’s seven Barrier Analysis Working Groups, contributed to “educating” the U.S. Air Force Academy and ROTC Gold Bar Recruiters on Native American peoples and “provided tips on how to be successful when interacting with Tribal members,” according to the update.

Additionally, another one of the Air Force’s Barrier Analysis Working Groups, the LGBTQ+ Initiatives Team, hosted a recruiting booth at the Capitol Pride Festival in Washington, D.C., on June 11, according to the newsletter. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall paid a visit.

Barrier Analysis Working Groups work on identifying “root causes” contributing to or degrading DEI in the force, according to an informational.

The Air Force called the event a “resounding success” through both making connections with possible future recruits and “representing the Air Force, Space Force and LGBTQ+ community “proudly.”

The Air Force also held a “senior leader diversity and inclusion orientation” on July 27 for over 60 new brigadier generals and members of the senior executive service touching on challenges for high-level leaders in “fostering inclusivity” and the Air Force’s efforts to “enhance awareness of cultural competency and bias literacy.”

Capping the quarter, the Air Force presented its second annual Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Conference from Sept. 28 to Sept. 20, with the theme “Respect, Recruit, Retain, and Ready,” according to the newsletter.

Hours before the conference, the Air Force finalized its DEI Strategic Plan, the Air Force said in a statement about the conference. The 18-page document covers intentions for fiscal year 2023 and outlines how the service plans to make DEI a facet of all aspects of the force and critical to mission.

“In the vast expanse of air and space, diverse perspectives and inclusive strategies are paramount. Our mission revolves around nurturing a culture where everyone feels valued and knows they belong. Their voices, ideas, and insights aren’t merely heard—they’re actively pursued to enhance our mission,” Malizia said.

The Air Force failed to meet its recruiting targets for enlisted personnel and officers in the active duty, Reserve and National Guard components in fiscal year 2023, the first time that has happened in more than two decades, a spokesperson previously told the DCNF. Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, head of Air Force recruiting, suggested in May the department struggled to adapt a new generation of recruits, reported.

On top of that, the Air Force is experiencing a severe shortage of pilots and other personnel in high-skill positions.

At the Juneteenth celebration, the Air Force honored a sergeant and civilian leader “for their commitment to social justice in the federal and military workforce,” according to the newsletter. Staff Sgt. Jakia Lindley and Dr. Joseph C. Chandler Jr. won the 2023 National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award.

Red velvet cake was served as “a symbol of those who lost their lives during enslavement,” it added.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Linda Urrutia-Varhall held a fireside chat on “topics including diversity and inclusion training at all levels, mastering the ability to have tough conversations, and allyship” at a women’s leadership symposium themed “Find Your Fit” and featuring participants from across the military in June as well.

The Air Force’s diversity office also organized a booth at the Air & Space Forces Association’s 2023 Air, Space & Cyber Conference, a gathering of top movers and shakers in the Air Force and defense industry, in September. Malizia was featured on a panel discussion on how she believes DEI is correlated with mission readiness and success, according to a press release.

The Department of Defense (DOD) honored two of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen at a July 26 ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the military’s desegregation.

“The Department of the Air Force recognizes and values our diverse population,” Malizia said of the ceremony, according to the newsletter. Integration of the military showed that “failing to fully utilize the diverse skills and perspectives of our Force erodes our operational capabilities.”

The newsletter highlighted the Air Force’s commemoration of Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to mid-October, including an announcement of the then-upcoming celebration hosted by the Hispanic Empowerment & Action Team (HEAT) — another Barrier Analysis Working Group.

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