USAFE Equal Opportunity Workshop: Clearing mission distractions

by Airman 1st Class D. Blake Browning
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Equal Opportunity & Alternative Dispute Resolution training workshop participants pose for a photo at the USAFE Conference Center on Ramstein Air Base, July 18. The event aimed to equip equal opportunity directors and practitioners with the materials to enhance their skills when it comes to mediation, writing settlement agreements and processing complaints more efficiently. — Photo by Tech. Sgt. Stephen Ocenosak

U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa hosted the Equal Opportunity & Alternative Dispute Resolution training workshop at the USAFE Conference Center on Ramstein Air Base, July 16 to 19.

This event was the first time the Equal Opportunity training workshop was held locally instead of the Air Force level. The event aimed to equip equal opportunity directors and practitioners with the materials to enhance their skills when it comes to mediation, writing settlement agreements, and processing complaints more efficiently.

“Right now we’re looking at the way we do business, and how can we make it better in ways that tie into our theme of ‘driving results through innovation,’” said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Leenette Joseph, USAFE equal opportunity strategic advisor and alternative dispute resolution manager.

Joseph added, processing an EO complaint, from sitting down with a counselor all the way to providing a mediation team, costs approximately $60,000 on that one individual before the case even goes to a formal complaint.

“That’s not counting the man-hours lost at work from the bad work environment, and slowdown of productivity,” Joseph added. “So when you add all the man-hours lost and preliminary costs totaling over $60,000, Equal Opportunity has a huge impact on the workplace, because when all of those things combine it can really distract from the mission.”

One of the topics discussed was how to equip Air Force first sergeants and supervisors to become better at solving problems instead of the person walking into the Equal Opportunity office and filing a complaint.

“We’re saving the Air Force millions of dollars by helping Airmen come together and seek resolution on their complaints,” said Cyrus Salazar, Air Force Equal Opportunity director. “It is vital to Airmen that we have an avenue where they can go to have a sounding board, to have someone hear their concerns, because EO is not just a compliance program. It’s not just complaints; we are there to serve Airmen and to help Airmen make decisions with issues of conflict.”

The vision in Air Force Equal Opportunity is to ensure a conflict competent workplace, said Salazar.

“After hosting workshops like these we can train Airmen, civilian and military alike, to have these competencies,” said Salazar. “If there were to be an issue, which doesn’t have to be discriminatory in nature, we can train accordingly, then we can empower people to go from point to point with confidence.”