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Bringing character, diversity to life: Academy hosts Air Force leadership summit

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. (AFNS) -- The Academy hosted its first Air Force Character, Ethics Development and Diversity Summit here July 9 to advance conversation and strengthen character development and diversity across the Air Force.

Roughly 30 Air Force leaders from the Pentagon, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, ROTC, Officer Training School and the Academy shared their perspectives on professional leadership and the Air Force core values.

"It's important for the Academy to be a part of the conversation," said Col. Joseph Sanders, the Center for Character and Leadership Development, or CCLD, director and permanent professor here. "It matters to the Air Force mission and our educational process here, making sure we're in line with issues surrounding character, ethics and diversity. We need to be in tune with the broader Air Force on those things."

Leaders shared information on Air Force recruiting, strategic messages and new diversity initiatives.

"We had good discussion on character development," said Lt. Col. Kevin Basik, the CCLD's assistant director of cadet development. "If we're going to push an initiative, it can't be a superficial program. It boils down to the intimate lives of people. We must consider, 'What will it look like for cadets, wing commanders or AETC?' We want to integrate programs that resonate with people in a relevant way and bring these concepts to life."

Col. Jeff Smith, AETC's International Training and Education director, said institutional optimism is very important to professionalism.

"People will only be committed to an organization they're proud to be a part of," he said. "Within a pessimistic environment people do not want to be as committed; it's a natural organizational phenomenon. We need to be aware of that information and fortunately we can do something about it."

In 1998, Smith was a part of a team that developed curriculum around the principles of developing character, professionalism and core values. According to Smith, an interactive video created by the team titled, "What Now Lieutenant?" is a creative and organic teaching tool allowing Airmen to discover what core values are in a given context that they can relate to.

"It's a tool that allows us to effectively internalize the way we teach core values," he said. "It was designed for lieutenants, but now we are designing it for Airmen. It is interactive and includes case studies on ethical, character type issues that ask the audience, 'What would you do?' Gen. Robin Rand, the AETC commander at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, has a vision to create videos for general officers, commanders, chiefs and NCOs."

A panel of Academy cadets and Airmen shared their Air Force experiences with leaders and offered suggestions for improvement.

"It wasn't until I met with my air officer commanding until I truly understood the core values here," said 2nd Lt. Stephannie Green, a 2013 Academy graduate and admissions adviser here. "Cadets regularly hear them -- they memorize them, but don't truly internalize them, I think, until they hear about them from an individual who has actually put the core values to use in their active duty career. I think the way it's delivered to cadets is essential."

Second Lt. Cecilio Carter, a 2013 Academy graduate and admissions adviser here, said the core values kept him here.

"When I arrived at the Academy, I knew nothing about the military," he said. "I liked the environment here where people aren't just about themselves; they're also focused on helping others achieve their highest potential. After being here for a while now, I've learned the core values, embraced them and live by them."

Leaders discussed the importance of moving from a philosophical to strategic level with Air Force initiatives.

"There is a sense of urgency on these topics that we need to take action on," Smith said.
This is the second Air Force Character, Ethics Development and Diversity Summit. Two more are scheduled for this year.

"Professionalism, ethics and diversity is something we really take seriously at the Academy and believe it deserves an intentional focus," Sanders said.

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