To the men and women of the 86th Airlift Wing and Team Ramstein:
Like many of you, Chief Rendon and I have been monitoring the wave of protests that have spread from Minneapolis, through the United States and across the world as citizens demand justice for the killing of George Floyd and an end to systemic racial discrimination.
It would be easy to remain a spectator and simply watch everything unfold without commenting on the terrible events that have taken place in the United States over the past weeks. But we must be willing to engage in difficult conversations, and that means addressing things like unconscious bias, bigotry and discrimination in our ranks.
Let me be clear: there is no place for racism or discrimination. They tear at the fabric of our society and erode the constitutional rights and freedoms we fight for as members of the Armed Services.
Right now, many of our Airmen are struggling with emotions of pain, anger and frustration. Some of our Airmen have experienced personal losses or have families back in the States who have been directly impacted by the unrest. All of us are affected in some way.
Gen. Mark Welsh, a former Chief of Staff of the Air Force, often talked about how every Airman has a story. Over the past two years, Chief Rendon and I have met many of our Airmen and listened to many of their stories. It’s always amazing to hear about the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the men and women who join the U.S. Air Force. We are diverse by nature, but every Airman gave the same oath to support and defend the Constitution. Every Airman deserves to feel included and valued as a member of this amazing team.
It’s time for all of us to listen more, to support our teammates and to have open and frank conversations to understand what our Airmen are going through.
I issued a call to action on Wednesday to our commanders, first sergeants and senior enlisted leaders. Their task is to enable and facilitate these conversations by setting the conditions within their unit to ensure it is a safe place built on equality, fairness and meritocracy, where all Airmen – regardless of race, nationality, gender, or sexual identity – feel respected and feel comfortable sharing their struggles.
Many of our leaders have spoken up the past few days about this issue. If you haven’t read the messages by our Chief of Staff of the Air Force and Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force on their Facebook pages, I encourage you to do so.
Chief Rendon has also shared a more personal message on his Facebook page.
Even in this COVID-19 environment, resources are available for Airmen and families who need assistance or someone to talk to. The entire Community Actions Team — including our chaplains, equal opportunity professionals, inspector general staff, and Integrated Resilience Office — are standing by and ready to support the needs of our Airmen and community. Chief Rendon and I will make ourselves available to anyone — Airmen, supervisors, leaders, or commanders — who needs us.
We are here and ready to listen. Let’s keep the conversation going.