Air ForceThe Air Force’s long-term effort to ensure a force powered by talented and diverse Airmen is led by Chevalier P. “Chevy” Cleaves who was recently appointed director of diversity and inclusion. “The United States faces serious challenges in an increasingly competitive and dynamic global environment. As the country experiences a significant demographic shift, the Air Force must further develop our ability to inclusively leverage our nation’s greatest strength: its remarkably diverse citizenry.” By ensuring the Air Force incorporates the country’s full spectrum of backgrounds, experiences, demographics and perspectives, Cleaves believes, “our service can then use these diverse experiences to more successfully conduct global missions.”

The Air Force’s top uniformed leader, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, agrees that the force’s best asset is its people and knows there is no other country in the world so widely diverse, yet so deeply committed to being unified, as the United States of America. “The greatest strength of our Air Force is our Airmen. The greatest strength of our Airmen is their diversity. Each of them comes from a different background, a different family experience and a different social experience. Each brings a different set of skills and a unique perspective to the team. We don’t just celebrate diversity…we embrace it!”

Cleaves and his staff are currently focused on improving the ways in which they manage the members of the Air Force’s 659,000 active duty, Air National Guard, Reserve and civilian workforce, by creating more flexible work/life options to allow everyone to thrive as 21st Century Airmen. “Diversity and inclusion concepts resonate with our service’s core values demonstrating that integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do are part of our character,” Cleaves said. “In today’s complex world, the more diverse and inclusive we are, the better we can deliver military successes to meet national goals.”

The Air Force is also working to reduce possible barriers for those wishing to serve. A mid-career sabbatical in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is one of the options the service has implemented to add flexibility. Additionally, potential pilot candidates across the country will now have expanded access to procedures necessary for completing their applications, which in the past was difficult due to geographic limitations.

Cleaves stressed that fostering an environment that leverages the entirety of America’s talent base capitalizes on the greatest strengths of every individual. “It helps the citizenry trust that we will do the right things, while providing our Airmen with the confidence that they are serving a population that believes in who they are and what they do.”

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James sees the confidence the country places in the Air Force. “Your Air Force will accelerate efforts to capture the best talent America has to offer while reflecting the changing landscape of our nation,” she said. “By affirming our commitment to diversity and inclusion, we amplify the value of our Airmen to their country, their families and to their communities.”

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