Air Force announces Diversity and Inclusion Award winners

  • Published
  • By Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force announced the winners recently of the 2020 Air Force Diversity and Inclusion awards, including the first Goldfein–Wright Inclusive Leadership award.

The awards recognize Airmen, Guardians and organizations that go above and beyond in operational, innovational and inclusive leadership achievements in three categories: command team, team and individual.

“It’s important to recognize the impact each Airman and Guardian can have in promoting a more inclusive Department of the Air Force,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force John P. Roth. “Embracing diversity strengthens our ability to accomplish the mission by attracting and retaining the best talent from a variety of backgrounds.” 

The 15th Medical Group’s command team earned the Goldfein-Wright Inclusive Leadership Award by leading the 15th Wing’s campaign at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, to make headway in increasing awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion, and to begin gathering data that can be used to better support all Airmen and Guardians. The team led the first diversity and inclusion council and set a program in place for Airmen and Guardians to provide feedback to leadership. The medical group also coordinated several speaking engagements, involving Air Force and Navy speakers, encouraging discussions on unconscious bias with 290 Airmen and Sailors.

“When we look across the medical group team, we are representative of America as we are one of the most diverse units,” said Col. Stephanie Ku, 15th Medical Group commander. “I know our team is at the beginning of building the upward and forward momentum needed to create a truly diverse and inclusive culture. We are so proud to have an opportunity to represent the U.S. Air Force through our efforts here. When you value others for their expertise, differences, and experiences, it makes the bonds stronger and the mission sweeter.”

Earning the honors in the team category is the Air Force Women’s Initiative Team who stood out amongst their peers for going above and beyond with efforts that advocate for diversity and inclusion in the Air Force.

The team created the Department of Defense pregnancy policy allowing pregnant and postpartum Airmen to participate in professional military education. They also drove the initiative that authorized braids and ponytails for female Airmen in uniform.

As one of the seven Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group teams, which are chartered to identify and propose ways to eliminate barriers to equal opportunity in the Air Force, the Women’s Initiative Team updated the service’s aviator height standard. This change allows for greater diversity amongst pilots, since many female candidates were previously ineligible for flight training due merely to their height. The team also designed and pushed for the Defense Department’s first maternity flight duty uniform.

“The responses from women across the force have been very positive,” said Maj. Alea Nadeem, congressional budget and appropriations liaison with the Office of Financial Management and Comptroller and the Women’s Initiatives Team chief. “The WIT worked with the Department of Defense to include pregnancy as a protected class, so women no longer are put in a position where they have to choose between family or a career. The maternity flight suit allows them to fly safely and accomplish their mission during their pregnancies, and we helped do away with the unnecessary waiver process for flying while pregnant, to put the decision to fly during those time periods with the Airman and their medical provider. The response to the new hair policy has also been overwhelming, as women can now be more comfortable while performing their service to the nation. Our dedicated volunteers don’t walk past problems, but take action to make things better for those that follow.”

David Frank, an associate general counsel for the secretary of the Air Force, earned the individual award for his role as the co-chair on the Women’s Initiative Team. The individual award recognizes an Airman whose individual accomplishments include starting a Diversity and Inclusion initiative, and leading, supporting and mentoring others.

Frank led the Department of the Air Force Barrier Analysis Working Group and also served as a legal advisor for the Department of the Air Force’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force during its 2020 efforts. These groups comprised more than 400 volunteers from a variety of career fields, helped identify and address issues impacting diversity and inclusion for Airmen and Guardians across the service.

He also supervised the update to dress and appearance standards regarding hair, the ban of displays of offensive flags on base, the design of the maternity flight suit and establishment of private and secure nursing areas and milk storage for new mothers. 

“Every barrier to true equity and inclusion knocked down by teams and individuals, like these 2020 award winners, translates to manpower and energy that is then freed up to better focus on mission accomplishment,” said Tawanda Rooney, acting director, Diversity and Inclusion within the Department of the Air Force. “That’s the ultimate goal for diversity and inclusion efforts; enabling all Airmen and Guardians to leverage their talents and skills for our national defense.”

The accomplishments of all the award winners represent the multi-capable and adaptable team builders and problem solvers that Department leaders say provide value to the service through diversity of thought, ingenuity, and initiative.

“Our Airmen and Guardians must use inclusive leadership to drive innovation and Accelerate Change,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. “These award winners are setting the example for how our leaders must find new, innovative ways to break down barriers empowering and enabling ideas and perspectives to be brought forward to address the complex challenges ahead of us.”

The Goldfein–Wright Inclusive Leadership Award was named after retired Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein, and retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. The award was unveiled in 2020 and recognizes a command team’s accomplishments in diversity and inclusion efforts, becoming the third Department-level award to recognize diversity and inclusion innovation to improve mission accomplishment.