Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Diversity as a matter of perspective

By Command Sgt. Maj. James Nelson, Jr.
State Command Sergeant Major
Georgia Department of Defense


About a month or so ago, I engaged in a philosophical discussion with one of my colleagues (a senior leader) on the subject of how the military recognizes various ethnics groups that make up the Armed Forces. One question that stemmed out of this discussion was: was it more important that I be personally recognized as the first African-American State Command Sergeant Major in Georgia, or was it more important to be recognized for doing a great job and being a good leader whom all members of the Ga. DoD would wish to emulate – a leader who just happens to fit into a certain ethnic group?

From that thought exercise, the conversation spilled over into the need for diversity in our force and what diversity means in the Armed Forces. I might have simply left the conversation where it ended if it weren’t for the subject being such a thought-provoking one. So, I’ve decided to float the question to you.

Ours is a multicultural force of people from a variety of backgrounds, representing a myriad of races, religions, colors, creeds, opinions, skills and motivations. No other nation in the world can boast such a diverse population; it is this diversity and the contributions of men and women of every race, culture, gender and religion that will sustain our nation’s character and strength into the future.

While America has seen some challenging times implementing and achieving such diversity, we have, nonetheless, emerged as a nation where anything is possible. As Americans, we share an intrinsic bond stronger than any geographic, demographic, ethnic or cultural loyalty.

With that perspective on diversity in mind, consider the following questions: Should we as senior leaders be more concerned with the diverse opinions and ideas each of us bring to the “one team, one fight,” concept, or ought we focus on demographic classifications like who’s Black, who’s White, who’s Hispanic, who’s male, who’s female?

What is it we as an NCO Corps should be teaching our young Soldiers and junior NCOs about the many different ways diversity presents itself? How and what, in your opinion, should we be teaching them to value? Where should we be placing the emphasis?

These are some of the questions I want us as an organization to ask ourselves as we address the need for diversity in the Force.

Valuing our diversity of opinions, without over-emphasizing our differences as individuals is a challenging subject now and will be for a time to come. One need only look at the mainstream news to see why.

It is not my intent to have all the answers on this subject; no one can really offer that. But I wanted to pose these questions to the organization for consideration and to provide food-for-thought for present and future leaders on diversity in the Armed Forces.

Remember, “Our diversity only strengthens us.”

1 comment:

  1. Diversity is irrelevant to the mission of the National Guard and Army. It is a political message - one more box to check off to assure we are pleasing the politicians. The Army of the Vietnam Era was the most diverse in history - we had our issues but worked them out and did a fine job that we can all be proud of.

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