EXCLUSIVE: ‘Use Your Privilege’: Air Force Promotes All-Day ‘Allyship’ Training

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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  • The Air Force offers a full-day workshop on “Mitigating Bias Awareness Through Allyship,” a copy of the facilitator guide, participant handouts and slides obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
  • The objective of the workshop is to “identify barriers to innovation” and promote a more diverse force, according to the document.
  • “Outcomes of Allyship considered to be desirable by proponents include greater inclusion in the workplace and empowerment of outgroups,” the introduction to the course states.

The Air Force offers an eight-hour workshop on resolving unidentified biases through “allyship,” which it described as actions taken to reduce prejudice, according to materials obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

It’s unclear from the slides, facilitator guide and participant handouts obtained by the DCNF via the Freedom of Information Act whether the workshop, entitled “Mitigating Bias Awareness Through Allyship,” is completely optional, or how many personnel among the Air Force and Space Force have completed it. Air Force Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) leaders have highlighted the course to support a renewed effort to engineer greater racial, ethnic and gender diversity in the force.

“Behaviors that are part of Allyship include changing to more inclusive use of language, and combating forms of prejudice against perceived outgroups such as racism, ableism, xenophobia, or other forms of discrimination. Outcomes of Allyship considered to be desirable by proponents include greater inclusion in the workplace and empowerment of outgroups,” the introduction to the course states. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon’s Special Ops Office Holds Book Talk On ‘Far-Right’ Domestic Terrorism)

The objective of the workshop is to “identify barriers to innovation,” according to the document. It was created on the premise that a focus on DEI promotes “higher talent/retention, reputation/responsibility, increased financial performance, and increased innovation and group performance” in the Air Force, just as it allegedly does in private corporations.

An unnamed Air Force captain helped develop the course after working with Apple on the company’s version of the course, according to the document. “Capt. [redacted] had the opportunity to participate in the program Education with industry and work with Apple during that time. A lot of the content came from Apple’s I&D team and is delivered to corporate Apple on a routine basis. We have tailored this for USAF.”

An Air Force spokesperson told the DCNF the workshop was optional for participants and that, to date, about 250 airmen and guardians have participated. The main goal of the worship is to increase group “innovation, productivity and creativity” and improve relationships among groups.

“After an internship at Apple, a U.S. Air Force service member brought this best practice back to their unit as an optional resource,” the spokesperson said.

The workshop creators made a change requiring all participants to come in casual attire, eliminating concerns about rank and hierarchy in the force, according to the document.

“As we participate in conversation today, we would like to maintain some level of anonymity when it comes to our position. This is to create a brave space for everyone and make sure we keep the flat status,” the facilitator guide states.

The course is broken into sections and scheduled to take place over a full day.

It works through scenarios someone might encounter and has participants engage in a number of common activities to assess so-called “bias.”

“Karen is a female engineer working for a major oil and gas operator. One day while attending a training session to learn a new time-writing application, Karen asks a question about a feature of the new package. The instructor who is male responds by suggesting that as admin staff she does not need to learn about that feature. As an ally, how should you respond?” one scenario reads.

Participants are invited to watch and sometimes discuss several videos, including “Allyship At Netflix,” in which a cast of ethnic minority and LGBTQ individuals encourage viewers to “use your privilege in the moment to extend that privilege to someone else.”

Another video linked to in the materials, produced by New York Magazine, features children of apparently various ages describing the differences between boys and girls — “you can switch genders and go to a girl,” Scarlet, age 7, says.

The session points out that differences in background, religion and experiences beyond race and gender contribute to diversity, then states that diversity can be measured. Inclusion describes the actions that stem from an emphasis on diversity but cannot be measured.

A February 2023 Air Force newsletter obtained by the DCNF referenced the course in a list of recommended resources for Air Force and Space Force troops touching on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility.

“Airmen and Guardians (military and civilian) have consistently requested resources and guidance on DEIA this past year. In the table below, you can find tailored education and training resources that are designed to help you foster inclusion, build cultural competence, increase bias literacy, and strengthen talent management,” the newsletter stated. It referred interested airmen and guardians to their major commands for more information.

Recommended resources included courses at Cornell, Georgetown University and the University of Southern Florida; online trainings available at internal and non-Air Force sources; and two workshops — “Increasing Bias Awareness” and “Mitigating Bias Awareness Through Allyship.”

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