EO office reaches out to Airmen

by Senior Airman Amanda Dick
Ramstein Public Affairs

When some people think of the military and employment equal opportunity offices they think of filing complaints and having them processed by those offices.

This is not the case for the Ramstein Equal Opportunity office. After the merge in July 2008 from MEO and EEO into one office, EO combined its efforts and resources into a more outreach focused mindset.

The Ramstein EO office, currently assigned to the 435th Air Base Wing, serves military, retirees, Department of Defense civilians, applicants for employment and, on occasion, some contractors located throughout the KMC as well as 37 geographically separated units.

Tech. Sgt. James Bonner, 435th ABW EO adviser, said complaints are just a small part of what the office does. The main programs EO offers are unit climate assessments, human resource education and the out-and-about program.
Equal opportunity provides three types of unit climate assessments: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3. Members of EO said they prefer to complete the Type 1 UCA because it combines both surveys and interviews.

“We can go out and talk to people and see what they actually want instead of just reading the comments,” Sergeant Bonner said. “A lot of times, the comments aren’t in depth, so with Type 1 we can go talk to people and get a feel for what they were saying.”

The Ramstein EO office tries to conduct unit climate assessments every two years, but an assessment can be conducted if a commander feels there are human relations issues or concerns that need to be addressed.

Equal opportunity also offers human resource education during First Duty Station Airman briefings, Airman Leadership School briefings and commander’s calls to educate people about their programs.

Another main program is the out-and-about program. This program allows EO members to go out to various squadrons and talk to people about their work environment, after they have gained approval from the squadron commander.
These programs focus on helping to create safe work environments for everyone, from the lowest-ranking Airman to the highest ranking general and every civilian in between.

“We’re here to make sure when you come to work, you feel good about being at work,” the sergeant said. “We can’t make your job better, but we can make your time at your job better. That’s what I hope for, making people feel safe at work. You shouldn’t have to worry about someone discriminating against you or sexually harassing you. The military should be free of that. That’s an Air Force and DOD policy, General Brady’s policy and (the wing commander’s) policy.”

On the civilian side, the Ramstein EO office provides the Alternative Dispute Resolution Program. This program brings in a mediator to settle work-related disputes without taking it to a higher level.

“We try to work toward a win-win situation because when we come to the table with a third-party neutral, we have a hand in the outcome,” said Tom Mahoney, 435th ABW EO director and ADR manager. “If these problems go through the complaint process, somebody else is going to make the decision on the outcome of that case.”
To become an EO adviser, each person must go through initial training for three months at Patrick AFB, Fla., and an eight-hour refresher training yearly. On top of that, the Ramstein EO office has monthly in-house training sessions. Before being considered for the three-month training, those interested must go through a 20-day trial period and be at least a staff sergeant.

The EO office also holds communication workshops at units and squadrons to help with communication problems the squadron or unit may have. Using scenarios and team building exercises, EO helps to figure out the problem and advise squadrons on ways to effectively communicate.

Today, the Ramstein EO office provides much more than a place to bring employment complaints to. Whether briefing at a commander’s call or providing helpful information, EO seeks to stay one step ahead of problems.

“We’re here for commanders if they have issues in their units,” Mr. Mahoney said. “We see ourselves as a resource, proactively looking into things rather than reactively processing complaints.”