CSAF stresses value of diversity at engineering awards conference

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz was the keynote speaker Feb. 19 at a conference recognizing and honoring African-Americans in technical career fields.

The annual Black Engineer of the Year Awards conference highlights the contributions of African-Americans in jobs centered on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The accomplishments of several Airmen were recognized at the event.

In his address, General Schwartz called attention to the varied backgrounds of Airmen and sister service members and how diversity makes the military a stronger force as a whole.

"Diversity is at the very heart of the American dream," General Schwartz told the crowd of more than a thousand Airmen and joint partners as well as civilians and industry professionals. "We come together with a conviction that diversity is a strategic imperative, putting together our creativity and innovation."

The general stressed that a successful and diverse tomorrow depends on mentoring all of today's youths, noting that "we have a responsibility to prepare them for the future" and especially to emphasize in them a "sense of service."

"As influential people in the lives of young Americans, we must encourage them toward higher callings," he said. "From senators and congressmen to professors and educators; to coaches, counselors and parents. Our undertakings today to broaden diversity in our armed forces ... depend, in no small measure, by communicating to and mentoring youngsters of enormous promise."

General Schwartz said that science professionals have several career options available to them and that the military "must adapt to attract, recruit, develop and retain a talented workforce" of people with technological skill sets.

"We need talented and thoughtful leaders who not only have a deep and abiding appreciation for other cultures, languages and customs, but also firm understanding that these various backgrounds and viewpoints ultimately establish a foundation of strength, legitimacy and greater efficiency," General Schwartz said.

The general reminded the audience that Air Force heritage is "one of believers and dreamers who often faced adversity and criticism for their ideas." He spoke about the contributions of several Air Force pioneers as well as the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airmen. In addition, General Schwartz highlighted the successes of some of today's Airmen and other service members receiving awards during the three-day conference.

The speech was especially poignant for several Airmen in attendance.

Capt. Janelle Harden Jackson, a career mechanical engineer, was impressed that General Schwartz understands the importance of technical professionals like her.

"Technology is in every facet of what the Air Force does so to hear him talk about why we have to recruit the best and brightest from a broad cross section of America was inspiring," the captain said. "Diversity brings new, fresh and more creative ideas, which is exactly what makes the Air Force so successful."

Bringing that diverse talent to the Air Force falls to people like Chief Master Sgt. James Nickerson, the superintendent of recruiting for the national capital region.

"Diversity has long been a focus of ours because of everything the Air Force does," the chief said. "If you look at all our platforms, our efforts in space and cyber, we need the nation's best. And that means doing what we can to bring talent into our service regardless of gender, skin color or creed. It's what diversity is all about; it's what the Air Force is all about."

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