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    Celebrating diversity and inclusion at the Vermont Air National Guard



    Story by Staff Sgt. Chelsea Clark 

    158th Fighter Wing

    BURLINGTON, Vt. - In honor of Black History Month, the Cultural Diversity Enhancement Team (CDET) invited Dr. Wanda Heading-Grant from the University of Vermont (UVM) to speak with members of the Vermont National Guard on inclusion and diversity issues Feb. 6, 2016, at the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG).

    As the Vice President for Human Resources, Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Heading-Grant shared her knowledge and passion for broadening people’s concepts what it means to accept and work with people who may come from different backgrounds.

    An open understanding can help create a respectful community for all individuals and is particularly important for people to feel to excel in the workplace.

    In recent years, the Vermont National Guard has made it a priority to foster “a culture of respect” by embracing all types of backgrounds and personalities; the result being a stronger and enriched military.

    In Heading-Grant’s talk which included strategies of working with different personalities and finding the strengths in groups that may have special challenges, one focus was on what she calls “the isms”; particularly racism and sexism which can make people feel separated and create hostile workplace situations.

    “The cost of all these ‘isms’ is the loss of good talent, lawsuits and racial profiling,” she told the group of Army and Air Guard members, and then stressed that each person in the room had the ability to include diversity and embrace the strength it gives an organization.

    This sentiment is shared by Tech. Sgt. Sophia Kater, Wing Knowledge Manager, who volunteers as an Equal Employment Counselor, a Black Employment Program Manager and an active CDET representative.

    Kater, who has lived in the Deep South as now in Vermont, firmly believes that exposure to diversity is essential to every military member who may be put in new situations with people of different cultures and traditions. She was one of the people who coordinated Heading-Grant’s visit to the base.

    “When you grow up and venture out, you realize there are many types of cultures from all walks of life, different backgrounds and different skin tones,” Kater advocated for inclusion in the military.

    By holding events such as Hispanic food nights and professional women forums, Kater and the CDET provide channels for military members to engage in conversation about diversity across the board. The events are open to both Army and Air Guard members, and the team itself is comprised of both services so that voices on both sides can be heard.

    Symposiums such as Heading-Grant’s provide an outlet of open dialogue and discussion for the community of guardsmen across the state. As its own community the military has the potential, and maybe the responsibility, to provide a model of a culture or respect. Only by consistently bringing the topics of diversity and acceptance to the surface can barriers be broken and bridges be formed.



    Date Taken: 02.07.2016
    Date Posted: 02.17.2016 16:03
    Story ID: 189063
    Location: BURLINGTON, VT, US 

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