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Information Warfare Airmen called to take action

Senior Master Sgt. Jewell Hicks explains his role as the Chief of Diversity and Inclusion for Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber).

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO - LACKLAND, Texas -- The 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) held a racial disparity roundtable discussion at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas on Feb. 5, 2021. Panel members discussed the Air Force Inspector General independent review into racial disparity report and the challenges faced by Total Force Airmen.

Panel members included Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) commander, Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth Bruce, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) command chief, Col. Melissa Stone, 363rd Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Wing commander, Col. Daniel Karanja, 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) chaplain, and Dr. Rachel Castellon, Air Combat Command’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

More than 250 people from across the Numbered Air Force tuned in to participate in the discussion that led with a call for action to Information Warfare Airmen to lead the charge in creating an environment that every person can succeed in.

“Our goal is to create an organization that we are proud of, that has dignity and respect for all, and that sets a standard we want everybody in our Air Force and Department to emulate,” said Haugh. “Our goal is to really build on the lessons we’re learning and the information we have to be able to produce outcomes that is really about fairness, it’s about equity, and also about creating an environment that is the most positive, the most innovative, and the most inclusive that we could possibly be.”

The roundtable discussion is just one initiative the 16th Air Force has taken to continue important conversations on diversity and inclusion. For the past several months, the organization has gathered information, feedback, and ideas about various topics impacting Information Warfare Airmen, with a goal to review internal processes and challenges to help accelerate change.  

“It’s really important we continue with our difficult conversations because that helps us. It increases our empathy and it helps us to have understanding and that’s very, very, important,” said Castellon.  

An additional initiative is the appointment of the 16th Air Force’s first diversity and inclusion officer who’s charged with leading the organization’s goals to foster a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity, and serves as a liaison for the entire NAF.   

“The 16th Air Force leadership team created this position based on a recommended action from a previously held focus group, and will serve as a continuity point for all NAF D&I efforts. This role is critical, as diversity & inclusion are readiness issues that affect our lethality as a force,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jewell Hicks, 16th Air Force’s chief diversity and inclusion officer.

While in this role, he hopes to set the diversity and inclusion program up for long-term success through discussions, focus groups, training, and policy to establish a foundation that focuses on all aspects of inclusion.

“D&I efforts never truly stop, and when done correctly, it’s an ongoing process that analyzes every facet of management, decision making, and mission accomplishment,” he added. “I can assist organizations with developing overall D&I plans, writing charters, seeking training solutions, setting organizational culture, event ideas, and much more.”

Through these initiatives, the 16th Air Force plans to lead the charge in creating an organization that’s equal for all by taking action to drive change.   

“We can drive the change that we want to see, we can drive the change to the force, not just the Air Force but to the DoD as a whole, to make us all better in the end,” said Bruce.

The Sixteenth Air Force, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, is the first-of-its-kind Numbered Air Force. Also known as the Air Force’s Information Warfare Numbered Air Force, the 16th integrates multisource intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, and information operations capabilities across the conflict continuum to ensure that our Air Force is fast, lethal and fully integrated in both competition and in war. Sixteenth Air Force provides mission integration of IW at operational and tactical levels… recognizing the role of information in creating dilemmas for adversaries in competition and, if necessary, future conflicts.