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Letter to Airmen: Equality and tough conversations

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. --

 

Team 446th – 

Many of us watched, read, and listened with horror and dismay about the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd. We are angered and saddened. These deaths should not have happened. There is no place in our society for racism and discrimination--especially in our military. Unfortunately, however, many also learned recently there is an apparent inequity in the Air Force’s application of military justice.

By now, hopefully you’ve seen the CSAF and CMSAF messages and conversations on social media, as well as the message below. We echo our Air Force leaders’ sentiments, that this is a time for discussions and self-reflection and understanding that we have problems driven by our own unconscious bias. Race remains one of the most difficult topics to discuss in the workplace. But the need to have candid and respectful dialogue with colleagues on the topic has never been more crucial. 

As well, we recognize that most police officers--as we have many who serve in the 446th Airlift Wing--do not condone it, either. Our AFRC Command Chief, CMSgt Tim White, also serves as a police officer in California. He says, “I also stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the vast majority of my law enforcement brothers and sisters in blue, of all races, who are equally outraged over this and other incidents where the oath we took to serve and protect was not honored. These officers and incidents DO NOT represent us; they disgust us, they dishonor us, they disgrace us. I’m not crossing the thin blue line, those cowards who murdered George Floyd did.”

There are no answers for these tragedies. Nevertheless, we can take positive steps toward change in our personal lives, our communities, and our workplaces.

Know that you are a valued member of Team 446th. We want everyone to feel valued in the wing regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or orientation. We recognize we don’t fully understand what challenges and fears our brothers and sisters of different backgrounds face. We know we can’t fully relate, nor can we pretend to do so. But we will listen. Our ears and our minds are open to discussions and positive steps. 

We are collaborating with our mission partners to develop a team to not only raise the discussions, but develop solutions for our own community and organizations. Our Secretary of the Air Force and CSAF directed the Air Force Inspector General to do an independent review of our legal system, racial injustice, and opportunities for advancement. We will fully support this effort at the local level. Our Equal Opportunity and Inspector General offices are also available to you should you need their assistance.

We who wear the uniform or serve our nation in a civilian capacity have a duty to protect our Constitution for everyone to enjoy its freedoms and civil liberties. Our diversity is our strength. Let’s work together to make changes for the betterment of all of us. 

Let’s start this hard conversation. 

 

CHRISTOPHER D. NEITZEL                                      PAUL M. SKIPWORTH

Chief Master Sergeant, U.S. Air Force                        Colonel, U.S. Air Force              

Command Chief                                                           Commander